Power outages in Houston could last days amid slow Beryl recovery and surging heat


HOUSTON — Power outages for hundreds of thousands of people across the nation’s fourth-largest metropolis are likely to stretch for days, the region’s electric utility warned, as muggy heat surged in the aftermath of Hurricane Beryl.

About 1.6 million utility customers were without electricity Tuesday afternoon amid calm, sunny weather and rising temperatures, more than 36 hours after Beryl made landfall southwest of Houston, according to utility company CenterPoint Energy. The storm brought over a foot of rain to the area, pouring down on already saturated grounds, and gusts of powerful winds knocked trees into power lines and buildings. More than 2.2 million CenterPoint customers lost power in the storm, among some 2.7 million customers who lost power across Texas.

As cleanup continues and officials assess the destruction from the storm, the utility said it expects to restore power for 1 million customers by the end of the day Wednesday, with hundreds of thousands of others facing a surging wave of heat without electricity. The National Weather Service warned that for those without air conditioning, conditions could become dangerous, with temperatures forecast to rise into the 90s amid intense humidity.

“Heat index values are expected to get as high as around 106 degrees, and these values could become dangerous in the aftermath of Hurricane Beryl,” the Weather Service’s Houston forecast office said in social media posts. “Take precautions in your recovery efforts.”

Authorities urged residents to seek out shelter at cooling centers opened across Houston to prevent the death toll from rising; at least four people died in the area as Beryl churned through. One person was killed by a falling tree in Bossier Parish, La., the sheriff’s office there said.

Eight people died when Beryl ripped through the Caribbean as a major hurricane, including three in Grenada, three in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and two in Jamaica. Three deaths were also linked to the storm in Venezuela.

For some Houston residents, finding a cool spot was a battle. Without electricity at home in the Third Ward neighborhood, Kianna Newman took her four children — ages 8, 4, 3 and five months — to a hotel, but the power was out there, too. Her father has a generator, but he is out of town.

So the 25-year-old found herself in one of several lines for gas, each more than a dozen cars long, at the only gas station with power and functioning pumps near her home. Then another SUV cut in front of her silver Yukon — another woman with children, her gas tank nearing empty.

Newman got out of her car.

“I have a newborn! I’m not playing!” she shouted.

The other driver backed up. Newman got back in her car and inched forward, reclaiming her place in line for enough fuel to power the air conditioning.

Even in neighborhoods where much of the power had been restored, homeowners and laborers sweated their way through patching damaged roofs, cutting fallen limbs and gathering up mountains of debris.

“Have you ever been to Las Vegas? Phoenix? Then you know how this feels,” said Keith Franklin, 51, as sweat poured down his face outside his home on Chickering Street in the Kashmere Gardens neighborhood of northeast Houston. Franklin had spent much of the morning cutting up fallen branches with a chain saw. There was plenty more work to do.

When he couldn’t bear the heat any longer, he planned to head back inside. “I’ll leave the rest for tomorrow,” he said. “Then I’ve got to come back out and get it done.”

Outages affected police and fire stations, a city animal shelter and the Houston convention center, which has served as a mass shelter during past storms, Mayor John Whitmire (D) said Monday. CenterPoint said late Monday that it deployed mobile generation units to an emergency facility and a hospital and that it expects to deploy more in the coming days.

“While we tracked the projected path, intensity and timing for Hurricane Beryl closely for many days, this storm proved the unpredictability of hurricanes as it delivered a powerful blow across our service territory and impacted a lot of lives,” Lynnae Wilson, a CenterPoint senior vice president, said in a statement. “We know we have important work ahead for our customers who depend on us, especially during the hot summer months.”

On social media, Houston residents eager for more information about power-restoration work said they were using an app from fast-food chain Whataburger for a sense of the scope of outages.

A map of the chain’s dozens of locations across the region showed the vast majority of them were closed Tuesday morning. The relatively few that opened their doors were on the fringes of the city, mostly clustered on its northern and western sides.

“Well there’s a use for our app we didn’t think of!” Whataburger replied to one customer on X. “We hope you and everyone else are okay!”

At the sprawling Lakewood Church in Houston on Tuesday, hundreds of people came to take advantage of the air conditioning, bottled water and charging stations that the church had offered, said Matt Osteen, an executive director at the church. Lakewood planned to continue operating the cooling center from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, as long as the need persists, he said.

“People, I think, are hoping and believing that their power is going to come back on,” he said.