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Texas medical examiner’s office expects increase in cold weather-related deaths, requests refrigerated trucks

The Galveston County Medical Examiner’s Office is requesting refrigerated trucks in anticipation of more fatalities from a brutally cold winter storm in Texas this week that has already claimed at least 10 lives and left millions without power.

Officials say they are expected to receive a couple of dozen bodies of people who have died from the cold. The request for refrigerated trucks was made because funeral homes in Galveston County have lost electricity and cannot house the bodies.

Cody Jennings uses a blanket to keep warm outside a grocery store Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Dallas.

Cody Jennings uses a blanket to keep warm outside a grocery store Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Dallas.  (AP)

Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said fatalities will climb as officials conduct "more welfare checks and check on people who’ve been trapped and without power for the last 48 to 50 hours."

"That number is going to climb as we have the ability to do more welfare checks and check on people who’ve been trapped and without power for the last 48 to 50 hours," Henry told Houston's KPRC-TV.

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The request comes as millions of Texans remain without power a full day after historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures created a surge in demand for electricity to warm up homes unaccustomed to such extreme lows, buckling the state's power grid and causing widespread blackouts.

Expectations that the outages would be shared evenly by the state's 30 million residents quickly gave way to a cold reality, as pockets in some of America's largest cities, including San Antonio, Dallas and Austin, were left to shoulder the lasting brunt of a catastrophic power failure and in subfreezing conditions that Texas' grid operators had known was coming.

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The breakdown sparked growing outrage and demands for answers over how Texas failed such a massive test of a major point of state pride: energy independence. And it cut through politics, as fuming Texans took to social media to highlight how while their neighborhoods froze in the dark Monday night, downtown skylines glowed despite desperate calls to conserve energy.

During the outages, Harris County emergency officials reported "several carbon monoxide deaths" in or around Houston and reminded people not to operate cars or gasoline-powered generators indoors. Authorities say three young children and their grandmother, who were believed to be trying to keep warm, also died in a suburban Houston house fire early Tuesday.

Thirty-five warming shelters were opened to accommodate more than 1,000 people around the state, FEMA said during a briefing. But even they weren't spared from the outages, as Houston was forced to close two on Monday because of a loss in power.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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