Extreme Winter Storms: Environmental Impacts of Public Utility Policies on Vulnerable Populations


Winter Storm Uri, one of the coldest in decades, brought snow and ice to Texas along with record subfreezing temperatures for 5 days February 13–17, 2021, and was followed by Winter Storm Viola, which brought more of the same February 18–19, 2021. Millions of Texans lost electricity and clean, running water for several days, which some suggest was due in part to a state-regulated energy market. Many Texas schools shut down for the entire week, as the death toll rose from these storms due to hypothermia and exposure, carbon monoxide poisoning, fire, drowning, and poor road conditions. Not only were COVID-19 vaccinations halted due to impassable roads but also Texas hospitals struggled to provide electricity and water pressure needed to perform life-saving medical treatments for their patients. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the historic winter storm event, identify vulnerable populations and key public health policies, and highlight the potential environmental public health risks associated with the storms.


Speaker / Author: 
Christine Cardinal, MPH, JD, College of Health Sciences, Sam Houston State University
Dhitinut Ratnapradipa, MSc, PhD, MCHES, Creighton University School of Medicine
Amanda Scarbrough, PhD, College of Health Sciences, Sam Houston State University
Anthony Robins, PhD, School of Engineering, Mathmatics, and Science, Robert Morris University
Kevin Boes, Graduate School, Creighton University
Month Year: 
March 2022
Page #: 
Publication Month: 
March 2022
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