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More than 1 million Houston-area customers still without power after Beryl

More than 1 million Houston-area customers still without power after Beryl

It may take days, if not longer, to fully restore power to the Houston area. after Beryl crashed in Texas like a hurricane earlier this week, leaving millions of residents in the dark and without air conditioning in scorching summer heat.

The slow pace of restoring power to the fourth-largest U.S. city has put CenterPoint Energy, Houston’s electricity provider, under increasing scrutiny over whether it was adequately prepared before the storm and working quickly enough to restore power.

Some Houston residents, who are all too familiar with prolonged natural disasters, also wondered why one of the Gulf Coast’s largest cities seemed to collapse under Beryl and was unable to better withstand a Category 1 hurricane.

A convoy of electric trucks from several different states gather to support power outage efforts the day after Hurricane Beryl made landfall in Houston, causing massive power outages on Tuesday, July 9, 2024, in Houston.

Raquel Natalicchio/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images


As of Wednesday night, more than 1.35 million customers remained without power in and around Houston, according to utility tracking site PowerOutage.us. At the height of the storm, more than three million customers were without power.

CenterPoint Energy has rolled out a new map to check restoration progress after people used a Whataburger fast food app to track nearby outages.

The situation was made worse by the scorching heat that has hit the region. The heat index reached 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) on Wednesday in Houston, according to the National Weather Service, as residents rushed to distribution centers to stock up on food, water and ice.

A social media post shows a screenshot of the Whataburger app on a smartphone in Houston, Texas, on July 10, 2024. Houston residents trying to monitor power outages in the wake of Hurricane Beryl discovered that the city’s largest electric utility didn’t have a working outage map. So they had to rely on an alternative: a burger app.

Mark Felix/Bloomberg via Getty Images


Darin Carroll, senior vice president of operations support for CenterPoint Energy, said the criticism the utility has received is not fair.

“We take great pride in preparing for events like this,” Carroll told CBS News. “I think we’ve done a tremendous job.”

Beryl was no longer a Category 5 behemoth by the time The hurricane reached the United States before sunrise Monday. It made landfall as a weakened hurricane with sustained winds of 80 mph (130 km/h) after already carving a deadly path of destruction through parts of Mexico and the Caribbean.

In the Houston area, Beryl toppled power lines, uprooted trees and snapped branches that crashed into power lines. Authorities said the storm was responsible for at least seven deaths in Texas and one in Louisiana.

CenterPoint Energy said it has brought in about 12,000 additional workers from outside Houston since the disaster began to speed power restoration.

Vehicles line up for a supply distribution at Woodforest Bank Stadium in Shenandoah, Texas, north of Houston, after Hurricane Beryl passed through the Houston metro area. The Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management, in coordination with the Montgomery County Food Bank, distributed water, ice, MREs and other supplies to 1,500 vehicles. July 10, 2024.

Jason Fochtman/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images


Asked sometimes pointedly Wednesday by Houston City Council members about the company’s handling of the storm, Brad Tutunjian, CenterPoint Energy’s vice president of regulatory policy, said it would not have been prudent to pre-position outside crews to “ride out” the storm.

He said extensive damage to trees and power poles hampered the ability to quickly restore power.

“That’s where all the time comes into play to do the restoration work,” he said.

Rural communities in Beryl’s path are also struggling to restore power quickly. In coastal Matagorda County, where Beryl made landfall, officials said it could take up to two weeks to restore power to about 2,500 customers in the hard-hit community of Sargent, where homes were destroyed and badly damaged.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has been the face of the state’s response while Gov. Greg Abbott is on an economic development tour of Asia, visiting Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

Abbott left Texas on Friday with a delegation of other lawmakers, state officials and municipal leaders. On Tuesday, Abbott said on social media that he had stayed in touch with emergency management officials and Patrick, who is acting governor during Abbott’s trip.

“We will remain committed until every Texan is well,” he wrote.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was criticized in 2021 for traveling to Cancun while his state was suffering from a deadly freeze. This week, Cruz traveled up and down the coast to visit hard-hit communities alongside state officials. On Tuesday, Cruz said he was sleeping on a friend’s couch after his own home in Houston lost power.

Beryl was a post-tropical cyclone centered about 80 miles (130 kilometers) west of Buffalo, New York, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was bringing heavy rain to parts of northeastern New York and northern New England. The heavy rain was expected to ease Wednesday night.