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A neighborhood in Waco, Texas, covered in snow in February 2021. Photo: Matthew Busch/AFP via Getty Images

Texas officials on Thursday raised the death toll from February’s winter storm to at least 111, up from their initial tally of 57, AP reports.

Why it matters: The storm caused one of the worst power outages in U.S. history as demand for heat strained the state’s electric grid. More than 4 million customers lost power. Millions also lacked access to drinkable water for days.

  • The majority of the deaths were associated with hypothermia, and the death toll may continue to rise as officials link more deaths to the storm, AP notes.

The big picture: State officials testified before a House Energy subcommittee on Wednesday during Congress' first hearing on the widespread failure of Texas' power grid. They faced questions on the need to winterize the system and whether different forms of energy would perform better in extreme weather, according to the Texas Tribune.

Go deeper

Mar 25, 2021 - Health

Brazil becomes 2nd country to surpass 300,000 coronavirus deaths

Cemetery workers bury a coronavirus victim of coronavirus at a funeral in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 12. Photo: Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

Brazil became on Wednesday the second country after the U.S. to surpass 300,000 COVID-19 deaths.

For the record: The health ministry confirmed Wednesday another 2,009 Brazilians had died of the coronavirus, taking the total pandemic death toll to 300,685. Brazil's population is much smaller than the U.S., which reached the milestone on Dec. 14, 2020.

Toyota to build $1.3 billion U.S. battery plant in North Carolina

The all-electric Toyota bZ4X, the company's first battery-electric vehicle, at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California on Nov. 17. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Toyota announced Monday it's investing $1.3 billion to construct an electric vehicle battery "megasite" near Greensboro, North Carolina, set to open in 2025.

Why it matters: Toyota's Prius hybrid won environmental plaudits when it launched in 1997, but it has since lost ground to electric vehicle world leader Tesla, per Axios' Joann Muller. This battery plant will be the first to produce automotive batteries for Toyota in North America.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress hunts for shortcut to pass defense funding, debt limit combo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer returned to his office Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The scramble in Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act is being complicated by an effort to tie it to a needed hike in the federal debt limit.

Why it matters: The House and Senate are rapidly coming up against a series of deadlines they must address before the end of the year — or risk disrupting crucial military funding and upending the economy. Congressional leaders are now hoping they can knock out both "must-pass" priorities in one, complex swoop.

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