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Houston residents pay for repairs and supplies after Hurricane Beryl

Houston residents pay for repairs and supplies after Hurricane Beryl

Premier Home Improvement workers remove a tree from the roof of a home in the Homestead neighborhood of Houston on Wednesday, July 10, 2024.
Premier Home Improvement workers remove a tree from the roof of a home in the Homestead neighborhood of Houston on Wednesday, July 10, 2024.Elizabeth Conley/Staff Photographer

Material possessions are replaceable, but life is not, Dickinson resident Leticia Alvarado reminded herself before leaving town ahead of a hurricane. But that doesn’t make her post-hurricane financial situation any easier to stomach.

Hurricane Beryl is expected to cause at least $28 billion in damage and economic losses nationwide, according to an estimate Tuesday by the private weather forecasting company AccuWeather. As Beryl’s floodwaters poured into the Gulf Coast, residents’ bank accounts were also depleted as they rebuilt fences, repaired roofs and returned to work.

Alvarado, who has lived in Dickinson since 1970, didn’t think hurricanes would surprise her again. But the empty roads out of Houston before Hurricane Beryl arrived Sunday morning were still a shock.

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But getting out of town before every hurricane is expensive. Alvarado estimates she spent $3,000 to prepare her home for the storm and book a hotel with her husband in San Antonio.

“We were lucky, but there are a lot of people who don’t have the financial means and have children,” Alvarado said. “I can (leave the city), but a lot of elderly people don’t have anyone. These people, when they don’t have electricity, who’s going to go see them?”

LIVE UPDATES: CenterPoint to provide updated timeline of power outages in Houston as more than 1 million people remain without power

Unpreparedness

Many area residents, Centerpoint Energy and even the Houston Police Department appeared surprised by Beryl’s passage through Houston. As Katy resident Ranjith Kasi peered over his fallen fence as his home was plunged into darkness Wednesday, he lamented what he saw as a lack of preparation on the part of local leaders.

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Kasi estimates he will spend $4,000 on hurricane relief.

“The main problem here is electricity. They didn’t restore power as quickly as they could,” Kasi said. “They’re not well prepared for this.”

Even those who had prepared for hurricanes found themselves in a vulnerable position as the hurricane turned east toward Houston.

Peter Daly bought a $12,000 generator for storms like Beryl after moving from Idaho to Alvin two years ago. But Daly, who was hospitalized at HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake before the storm, was still without power for more than 24 hours.

Emergency lights came on at the hospital, allowing essential appliances to operate, but the air conditioning and entertainment were off, Daly said, although he said it wasn’t too hot in his room.

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“It was just ironic. I paid all this money for a generator… I did everything people told me to do and it didn’t work for me,” Daly said.

Caught off guard

As a Katy resident who works in emergency management, Sonia Knowles knows how to prepare for storms. But even she felt caught off guard when she was without power and water for days.

“I was preparing for the possibility of water going out, power going out, and just trying to have as many things as possible available,” Knowles said Wednesday morning. “But I didn’t expect three days without power… I didn’t expect (my son’s) therapy center to close. I didn’t expect the nannies to not be available, and I didn’t expect my office to need me as much as it needed me.”

Recovery will take much longer than restoring electricity. His youngest son, who has special needs, has already regressed behaviorally without his habits, Knowles said.

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Knowles estimates Beryl could cost her $5,000 as she prepares for possible future storms this hurricane season.

“I wonder what else I can do,” Knowles said. “What are we going to have in July and August? How can I keep my kids safe?”

Lost wages and damage costs

Residents have lost thousands of dollars in lost wages, damage costs and supplies as they wait for power and water to be restored.

“I’m lucky to be employed,” Knowles said. “I can’t think about those single parents who work for an hourly wage and are even more dependent on the availability of child care.”

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Hurricane Beryl could have taken Lynn Brielmaier’s life. The Alief resident, who has ALS, needs a ventilator to survive. His ventilator battery lasts 10 hours; after Beryl, his home lost power for nearly 16 hours. His son removed the battery from his handicapped van to run a car inverter to keep his ventilator running.

Brielmaier said his superintendent’s president was on the phone with 911 for hours before help arrived.

“They arrived at 8:45 p.m., just after we had put a second car battery into service,” Brielmaier said via an eye-scanning computer. “It’s clear I need a generator, although I don’t know how yet.”

The tree damage is extensive and costly. An 80-foot sycamore tree and a downed power line were above ComQuest Academy Charter High School in Tomball Wednesday morning.

Glen Stanfield, a board member and longtime local resident, said there was no power to the school or his home Wednesday. He had to wait for a crew of electricians to come assess the damage to the school.

Stanfield estimates that removing the tree will require special equipment and will cost about $2,000.

Post-Beryl Preparation

Newcomers to Houston prepare for hurricanes while they’re still in the dark.

Heather Halbert, of Idaho, was sitting in her Conroe home with her daughter and several rescued animals when a tree hit her roof.

“It’s funny, I thought it was an earthquake because I’m from Idaho and Utah, even though I knew it was a hurricane,” Halbert said. “I had no idea what to expect.”

She has already drawn up a new evacuation plan and plans to trim more trees and purchase non-perishable food items and a 72-hour survival kit.

The costs are adding up for the single mother and teacher: Cutting down one tree alone cost $700, Halbert said, and she added that her home insurance has already gone up.

“I didn’t even realize it was thousands of dollars extra just for a hurricane,” Halbert said. “Just thinking about the next hurricane season is financially stressful.”

STILL NO ELECTRICITY: Kashmere Gardens residents fear being ‘last in line’ for power restoration in Beryl

Lack of confidence

Some residents expressed frustration to area leaders as more than a million residents remained without power Thursday morning.

The lights came on for Daly and other patients Tuesday night, and Daly hoped to be discharged from the hospital Wednesday. While he was shocked that a facility as essential as a hospital would be without power for so long, he commended the doctors and nurses who braved the roads to get to work.

“To me, it’s just ridiculous that the hospital isn’t better protected,” Daly said. “But I have to say one thing: The people at this hospital … are absolutely wonderful.”

Alvarado said she felt residents received less information about the storm than previous hurricanes.

“We’ve been here for so many years. This is the worst response from government officials,” Alvarado said. “Taxpayers pay your salary, so help people.”