Approximately 700 people were killed by the winter storm, and subsequent collapse of the Texas grid and gas system, in February, a BuzzFeed News investigation reveals. The estimate, calculated by analyzing death counts during and after the storm compared to normal death rates in other years, is four to five times higher than official state estimates and exposes the failure of state and grid officials to prepare for the extreme weather despite warnings a decade ahead and days immediately before the freeze. The resulting, catastrophic blackouts left millions without electricity and water, with a disproportionate toll borne by low-income Texans, people of color, and people with disabilities, and the grid came within minutes of complete collapse.

The estimate relies on established methodology used to calculate the full death toll of other disasters, including Hurricane Maria. It includes the deaths of people like 68-year-old Shirley Napier, who collapsed in her Galveston home that had lost power overnight. She was admitted to the hospital with a body temperature below the threshold for hypothermia, but her death certificate makes no mention of hypothermia or the storm. To quote The Verge: “go read this investigation into the real death toll from the Texas freeze.” (Buzzfeed; Minutes from collapse: Wall Street Journal $; Climate Signals background: February 2021 Polar vortex breakdown and Central US winter storms)