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Millions of Texans still lack power as temperatures climb

HURRICANE BERYL
Wednesday, July 10, 2024

POOJA SALHOTRA, JESS HUFF AND EMILY FOXHALL

Millions of Texans remain without power Tuesday as temperatures warm into the 90s and the heat index is projected to push past 100 in parts of the state, one day after Hurricane Beryl’s deadly winds and rain caused widespread damage.

On Tuesday, most electricity customers in coastal Brazoria and Matagorda counties lacked power, as did most of Polk, San Jacinto and Montgomery counties. A sizable portion of Harris County, the state’s most populous, also remained without power.

Statewide, more than 2.1 million electricity customers lacked power at 1:35 Tuesday, according to PowerOutage.us.

Utility officials and state leaders have said it will likely take days to get everyone’s electricity back on — and temperatures are projected to rise steadily over the next week, National Weather Service Meteorologist Ryan Knapp said.

Temperatures in the 80s and 90s can create unsafe conditions for high-risk individuals, especially in a home with no power, and finding ways to keep cool will be paramount, he said.

[How to stay safe in the Texas heat] “The upper 80s can obviously heat the inside of the home pretty quickly,” Knapp said.

Heat is known as a silent killer. The harm it causes can be more complex than, say, a tornado or fire. But extreme heat causes more deaths per year than any other weather-related hazard, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Heat can make people weak, dizzy and faint. In severe cases, people develop heat stroke that causes organ damage or death.

Climate change driven by people burning fossil fuels has only exacerbated this risk in Texas, making summers more intense.

And heat doesn’t impact all communities equally. Older people, children and people who have chronic illnesses can be more at risk for heat-related illnesses. Some neighborhoods in Houston already have more health risks and may have fewer options for how to stay safe, said Stefania Tomaskovic, executive director of the Coalition for Environment, Equity and Resilience.

[Tropical Storm Beryl: How to get help and help Texans] Many here already lost power or dealt with damage when a strong wind storm hit in May.

“We’re concerned about the heat issues because when power outages happen a lot of vulnerable people are left even more vulnerable,” Tomaskovic said.

CenterPoint Energy expects to get power back to a total of 1 million customers by the end of the day Wednesday. About 800,000 customers had their power restored by mid-day Tuesday, and a company spokesperson said the utility was “very much on track” to hit the 1 million mark by end of day on Wednesday. As of 11:40 a.m. Tuesday, 1.7 million customers still lacked power.

A timeline detailing when all customers can expect to have power back will likely be released later on Tuesday, the spokesperson said.

CenterPoint is the main electricity provider in Harris County, the state’s most populous and the one that bore the brunt of the storm, along with areas of the Gulf Coast.

In their Monday update, the company said they would prioritize restoring power to facilities critical to health and public safety. Customers in the hardest- hit areas could experience extended outages, the company stated.

[“Just my luck”: Houston begins clean up after Beryl rips through Gulf Coast] “This will be a multi-day restoration event,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said during a briefing Monday evening.

North of Houston, 90% of Montgomery County customers served by Sam Houston Electric Cooperative were without power, as were 90% of Polk County customers and 100% of Trinity County customers, according to Sam Houston Electric Cooperative, that region’s main provider.

“This will be a multiple- day effort to restore the system,” Sam Houston Electric Cooperative wrote on social media platform X Monday morning. “Please make necessary arrangements to keep yourself and your family safe.” The company also wrote that they had deployed approximately 500 lineman, contractors and vegetation crew and expect more to arrive today.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas in a statement said that thousands of crews were working to restore power across the region, while utilities tried to assess how long repairs would take. The PUC maintains an electric outages viewer for people to monitor where power is out.

The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for multiple counties in Southeast Texas with temperatures in the low 90s and heat index values up to 106 degrees. Officials warned people to drink water, wear light clothing and limit outdoor activity to avoid heat-related illnesses.

“When you factor in not only having no AC, warmer temperatures, and then also a higher heat index, that increases humidity, that muggy feeling out there, which adds to the uncomfortable feeling,” Knapp said. “With the heat index being higher, it can definitely lead to heat stress and heat related illness. It makes it feel like it’s significantly warmer out there than it actually is.”

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666