Uri is a storm that Texans will not forget any time in the near future. Even the panhandle of Texas, which knows extreme winters, was hit hard. Winter Storm Uri was a major coast-to-coast storm. It spread snowfall and damaging ice from the Northwest into the South, Midwest, and Northeast. The storm brought the coldest temperatures the south-central states have felt in decades. The massive winter storm barreled through the mid-section of the United States and across the South in mid-February. It hit Texas unusually hard. Insurance companies predict that it will generate billions in insured losses.
Winter Storm Uri brought snow, ice, and record-breaking temperatures to Texas and other areas across the Southern U.S. over the Valentine’s Day weekend, extending into the following week. Millions were left without power, and in many cases water. This has been attributed to dozens of deaths. As of February 16, more than 100 million Americans were affected by the storm. A new record was set for the largest area of the United States ever blanketed in snow at 73%.
The Insurance Council of Texas (ICT) said the storm “may be the costliest winter weather event in the state’s history.” Hundreds of thousands of claims are expected as a result of the storm. The Independent Insurance Agents of Texas said in a statement on its website that it “is expected to be the largest insurance claim event in Texas history.” The property damage both inside and outside of homes and commercial structures are a result of the snow and ice on the exterior of buildings. Flooding and other water damage were caused by frozen and broken pipes inside the impacted properties. Uri even spawned five tornadoes. There was one in North Carolina, one in Georgia, and three in Florida.
Camille Garcia, communications director with the Insurance Council of Texas, said this storm will likely be costlier than Hurricane Harvey in 2017. The cost of Hurricane Harvey was around $19 billion in insurance claims. That’s about $20.1 billion adjusted for inflation.
Unlike most natural disasters, the destruction of homes due to Uri was minimal. However, the impact on infrastructure, especially power grids and water systems, was extensive. Reports say that at least 70 people died, including 12 in Mexico and 58 in the U.S. Most of the deaths in the United States were in Texas. Many died from hypothermia. Many more people were injured from carbon monoxide poisoning, hypothermia, and accidents.
A large percentage of the roads in Texas were impassable because of ice and snow. This prevented the distribution of relief supplies and regular supply chain operations. Grocery stores with power ran out of food and many institutions were without power. Long-term care facilities and jails struggled to get water. Even when roads were reopened, vehicles left on roadways due to accidents or the weather still needed to be removed.
Texas received a federal Major Disaster Declaration. The entire state received a declaration for Public Assistance Category B, which includes sheltering, emergency operations activities that support shelters, and water and food distribution that support mass care. Much of the western half of the state also received a declaration for Individual Assistance (IA) which provides direct support to residents impacted by the storm. Winter Storm Uri will be one for the record books.
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