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Winter Weather Costs Texas More Than $750 Million Annually

The state ranked first nationally in 2022 with 458 hailstorms. Losses are most severe in Dallas County, which has $102 million in expected losses every year due to storm damage.

Snow covers the ground at Carpenter Park in downtown Dallas
Snow covers the ground at Carpenter Park in downtown Dallas on Jan. 15. Sub-freezing temperatures are expected to continue through Wednesday.
Elías Valverde II/TNS
Ice storms, cold waves, hail, winter storms: Texas has them all. And the combination of these weather events lead to at least $754 million losses in Texas and $106.4 million losses in Dallas annually, according to the National Risk Index, a database maintained by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The index combines the likelihood and consequences of natural hazards with community risk factors, and estimates risks at the census tract and county level. It calculates expected annual losses for building value, agriculture loss and even expected population losses for 18 natural hazards in the U.S., including earthquakes, hurricanes and coastal flooding.

With an arctic front entering Texas this week, the state braced for freezing temperatures challenging the electric grid and the cities’ infrastructure, with authorities still accounting for damages left behind. Some incidents earlier this week included an eight-vehicle wreck due to icy road contions, as well as multiple cut off water calls regarding burst pipes.

North Texas counties experience the highest risk for hail events in all of Texas, registering about 9 hail storms per year that lead to more than $340 million in losses annually. Dallas, Denton, Tarrant and Collin pose the largest expected annual loss. Dallas county leads the ranking with over $102 million expected losses every year, coming mainly from building damage. Denton and Tarrant county follows with over $92 million and $85 million in expected losses for hail damage respectively each year.

According to the Insurance Council of Texas, Texas ranked first nationally in 2022 with 458 hailstorms, more than Nebraska and Minnesota, with 399 and 387, respectively. Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties rank top three nationally in expected annual damage for building value because of hail, according to the NRI.

Hail is the most damaging ice-related natural hazard impacting North Texas counties. It’s one of the most common severe weather threats in the region, even though it is not typically associated with winter precipitation, says Jennifer Dunn, meteorologist at the National Weather Service Fort Worth.

“However, we also have hail in the fall, and sometimes under the early winter we get strong storm systems, cold fronts, and the ingredients come together for storms that can produce hail in those months”.

Winter weather like Texas has been experiencing these days is expected to leave behind statewide annual losses of $56.9 million, and about $813,000 in Dallas. Winter weather consists of winter storm events in which the main types of precipitation are snow, sleet, or freezing rain, according to the NRI.

Extreme low temperatures sustained for an extended period of time also pose risks for North Texas counties. Texas experiences two to three such cold waves annually and the NRI estimates it costs North Texas $7 million in losses annually. During cold waves, public officials encourage residents to stay home to minimize the impact of life-threatening temperatures.

The NRI estimates population losses due to natural risks using a Value of Statistical Life measure (VSL). This measure treats each fatality or ten injuries as $11.6 million of economic loss, according to the NRI Technical Documentation.

Ice storms, which the NRI define as freezing rain situations, lead to $1.4 million expected annual losses in Denton, and $874,000 in Dallas, according to the index. Statewide, they accumulate over $33.4 million in expected annual damages, with building and property value damage accounting for $21.6 million.

“Any time of winter precipitation, whether it is snow, sleet or freezing rain has an impact on the region, and how the event unfolds they can each have different but very notable impacts too”, said Dunn.

Even though the National Risk Index estimates annual losses based on an equation that includes exposure, annualized frequency and historic loss ratio, some winter events far exceed calculations. The winter storm that hit Texas in February 2021 left $10 billion in damages and became the third costliest storm in the state after Hurricane Harvey ($20.1 billion) and Hurricane Ike ($15.9 billion) according to the Insurance Council of Texas. It also killed more than 240 people, resulting in an impact of $2.7 billion for the human losses, according to the VSL.

According to a recent report by the National Center for Environmental Information, Texas has had at least 170 weather or climate disaster events exceeding $1 billion each, from 1980 to 2023. This includes 100 severe storms, 10 winter storms and 1 freeze event.

2023 didn’t have a billion-dollar freezing event in Texas, but it was affected by the Southern/Midwestern drought and heatwave of Spring-Fall, which cost $14.5 billion and killed 247 people total in 7 states, including Texas.

©2024 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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