Heat drives Texans to sleep in cars as Beryl spins tornadoes in New York: Updates


Crystal Krest and her two children slept in their car on Tuesday night. It was the only place where they could get some cool air near their home in Tomball, Texas.

All the hotels in the city of 12,000 people northwest of Houston were fully booked and their home, which hasn’t had power since Monday morning, was over 90 degrees after nightfall.

“Pretty much everybody in my neighborhood is sleeping in their cars right now because it's just unbearable,” Krest, 41, told USA TODAY on Wednesday. “We can’t sleep in our houses.”

Officials caution that sleeping in a parked car with the engine running carries the risk of exposure to carbon monoxide exposure and even poisoning if the exhaust system is defective or the vehicle is in a poorly ventilated place, such as a garage. Even outdoors, fumes from a long-running parked car can accumulate and create danger if the air is still. In addition, there's an increased chance of being assaulted by someone or getting hit by a moving vehicle when sleeping in a car.

More than 1.3 million homes and businesses remained without power Wednesday night across a swath of Texas, battered by once-mighty Hurricane Beryl, which has pushed north and now fuels flood and tornado warnings across much of the nation's northern tier.

For the last two days, Krest's family has spent hours in line for gas and meals at fast food chains like Chicken Express and Jack in the Box. With no timeline on when they’ll have power again, Krest bought some bug repellent to at least keep the mosquitoes away while they’re trying to get some rest.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said. “I guess we’ll keep sleeping in the car until the power comes back on.”

Beryl, the earliest Category 5 hurricane on record, roared through Jamaica, Grenada, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines last week, toppling buildings and power lines and killing at least 11 people. In the U.S., Texas took the brunt of Beryl when it stormed ashore early Monday as a Category 1 hurricane, prompting closures of the largest ports in Texas, including the port of Corpus Christi.

A tree downed by tropical storm Beryl blocks Richmond Avenue in Houston on July 10, 2024.
A tree downed by tropical storm Beryl blocks Richmond Avenue in Houston on July 10, 2024.

Millions without power as Beryl, tornadoes threaten central US; 8 dead: Live updates


∎ Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott announced Wednesday that 67 counties in the state have been approved for federal disaster assistance as part of a major disaster declaration approved by President Joe Biden. The governor said the declaration allows for reimbursement for up to 75% of costs associated with expenses for debris removal and emergency protective measures.

∎ Besides the over 1.3 million homes and businesses out of power reported in Texas, another 43,000 were going without power in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York as Beryl made its way north.

∎ At a news conference in Matagorda, where Beryl entered Texas as a Category 1 hurricane, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick commiserated with residents about the stifling conditions, saying: "When you don't have power, when it's pitch black at night when it's as hot as 80 (degrees) during the day and you don't have access to food you normally have, it's a miserable situation."

AccuWeather estimated the total U.S. economic loss from Beryl at between $28 and $32 billion. This figure includes direct damage from the storm, job and wage losses, interruptions of the supply chain and flight delays and cancellations.

Beryl tracker: See path and spaghetti models for post-tropical cyclone, hurricane remnants

Remnants of Beryl spawned tornadoes in Kentucky

On Wednesday, the National Weather Service released preliminary estimates on the strength of two tornadoes that tore through Kentucky on Tuesday as Beryl's remnants moved inland.

A supercell thunderstorm formed in western Kentucky and developed what the weather service described as a "large and dangerous" tornado that tracked through parts of Union County and crossed the Ohio River into Indiana.

The weather service said preliminary data indicates the first of the tornadoes, in Union County, was an EF1. The damage was caused by peak winds of 105 mph but no injuries were reported.

The storm strengthened after it crossed the Ohio River and caused damage in Mount Vernon, Indiana. The weather service's preliminary data showed EF3 damage at a Kenco facility near Indiana 62. It had winds of 140 mph.

No injuries were reported in Posey County, but 14 people were displaced from a mobile home park north of Indiana 62. The storm had also ripped off roofs and derailed train cars.

Houston hospitals 'backed up' amid power outages

Hospitals in the Houston area were strained by the lack of power, according to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

The whole health care system was "backed up" after hospitals determined that it was unsafe to discharge patients to homes that didn't have power, Patrick said Wednesday.

"We had a police officer who was shot in the leg, and when the mayor went down to see him the next day, he still didn't have a room," Patrick added. "That's how urgent it was."

In response, officials have set up a medical shelter at NRG Arena — a stadium in south Houston. The facility will house 250 patients discharged from hospitals.

"It's in the patient's best interest not to send them to a place that doesn't have power, that they can't keep their medications refrigerated," Texas Department of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd said Wednesday. "So that's why we provide this additional facility to be able to ease the burden on those hospitals right now that are overcrowded."

The city was also facing an ambulance shortage, according to Kidd. He noted that ambulances had been waiting in emergency departments to offload patients, with some waiting for "three-plus hours." State officials have sent 25 additional ambulances to the city to assist with 911 calls.

Tornado warnings and an apparent hit in western New York

An apparent tornado left significant structural damage in and near the town of Eden, New York, less than 20 miles south of Buffalo, on Wednesday afternoon as a National Weather Service's office in Buffalo issued a series of tornado warnings for the western part of the state.

Mark Poloncarz, county executive for Erie County − where Eden is located − said on the X platform the town is under a state of emergency after the apparent twister damaged several farms and injured animals.

"Thankfully there are no injuries (to people) but there is significant damage to a number of homes and farms on Rt. 75/Sisson Highway in Eden,'' said Poloncarz, who reposted a video showing dozens of fallen and torn-up trees as well as blown-out roofs in houses and barns.

The Buffalo office cited "multiple threats today as the remnants of Beryl bring areas of heavy rainfall with localized flash flooding." Liam Healy, a meteorologist with CBS affiliate News 8 WROC in Rochester, posted a chart on social media showing the 18 tornado warnings issued by the office Wednesday are more than double its previous high. The office finally called off the region's tornado watch at 7:30 p.m. ET, but said flooding in Lewis County would continue.

Syracuse University canceled summer classes Wednesday afternoon and encouraged employees to go home because of the approaching severe weather.

Rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches, locally higher in some places, were expected across portions of the southern Great Lakes into central and northern New York and northern New England by Thursday, the weather service said.

In Illinois, the state Emergency Management Agency warned residents and visitors to "grab the umbrella and pay attention to water levels." Some flash flooding could affect areas that don't usually have water, the agency said.

Stalled storms bring heavy rains to Midwest

The march across land helped weaken the once-Category 5 Hurricane Beryl to a post-tropical cyclone, but the storm remained dangerous Wednesday. The National Weather Service issued flood watches and warnings across parts of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Stalled thunderstorms Tuesday brought weather havoc from Missouri to Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. Rainfall of 2-4 inches was common, and some areas had up to a foot rain, AccuWeather said. Areas in and around Chicago were swamped by heavy rains. In nearby East Chicago, Indiana, Emmett Seymour tried to drive through high water and needed a tow truck to extricate his vehicle.

"Cars smaller than mine went through the water, so I figured ... I probably could make it through," Seymour told the local CBS TV station. "I underestimated it, I guess."

Tornado warnings in New York state

The National Weather Service office in Buffalo, New York, issued its fourth tornado warning in about an hour Wednesday at about 1:45 p.m. ET, all of them for the areas around Buffalo and Rochester in the western part of the state. Other tornadoes are possible in central New York.

The Buffalo office cited "multiple threats today as the remnants of Beryl bring areas of heavy rainfall with localized flash flooding." Despite the possibility of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, the office said the main threat would be damaging winds.

Beryl's remnants were centered 35 miles southwest of Detroit late Wednesday morning with maximum sustained winds of about 30 mph, moving northeast at 20 mph. Rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches, locally higher in some places, were expected across portions of the southern Great Lakes into central and northern New York and northern New England by Thursday, the weather service said.

In Illinois, the state Emergency Management Agency warned residents and visitors to "grab the umbrella and pay attention to water levels." Some flash flooding could affect areas that don't usually have water, the agency said.

'Utter chaos' as families scramble for the basics

On Monday, the power went out at Kelly Pritchard's home in Summerwood, a neighborhood northeast of Houston. With no running water or air conditioning, Pritchard scrambled and found a one-night stay at a nearby hotel for Tuesday, when heat index levels reached triple digits.

In the meantime, she provided Facebook updates about the daycare she runs, Children’s Lighthouse, which serves more than 200 families across Houston. “It's really heartbreaking, because I know parents who are so stressed out now at this point because they don't have basics,” said Pritchard, 52.

The daycare had some minor flooding, and the power outages spoiled hundreds of dollars worth of food, Pritchard said. Driving back and forth from Summerwood to Houston, she has seen packed lines outside fast food restaurants and has been stuck in gridlock traffic, largely because of downed traffic lights.

“It’s utter chaos,” she said.

Biden, Abbott bicker over Beryl response effort

President Joe Biden issued a major disaster declaration for the damage sustained through Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast. But Biden blamed Texas' state leaders for delaying the federal government's response to Beryl, saying the White House had tried for days to track down Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Patrick is serving as acting governor while Abbott is on a nine-day economic development trip across Southeast Asia. Biden told The Houston Chronicle his office had tried to contact Abbott and Patrick before it received the state’s major disaster declaration Tuesday, which allowed federal emergency relief supplies to flow into the state.

Abbott said in a statement posted to X on Tuesday that Biden did not call him despite having his number. Abbott also said he’s had daily calls with state and local officials during the storm.

Patrick said in a statement Biden was politicizing the hurricane and that state officials needed to determine what their needs were before making the request. He also dismissed claims he was unreachable.

“He obviously did not know his own employees from FEMA were side-by-side with me for 3 days!” Patrick said.

Extreme heat adds to woes in Texas after Beryl

Compounding the power problem in Texas is a heat wave expected to push temperatures above 100 degrees in some parts of the state. Texas is not alone. On Wednesday, the weather service issued excessive-heat advisories, warnings or watches for more than 130 million Americans.

Despite his row with Texas leaders, Biden said the Federal Emergency Management Agency had generators and other resources on the ground to support the state even before the storm hit.

"The greatest concern right now is the power outages and extreme heat," Biden said in a statement. "We will provide life-saving and life-sustaining activities, and any other federal resource that Texas needs."

Beryl made its first landfall July 1

Beryl developed over the Atlantic Ocean on June 28 and quickly intensified into a powerful hurricane before making landfall on Carriacou Island on Monday, July 1. Beryl grew stronger and gained Category 5 status with winds of 165 mph as it roared across the Caribbean. Beryl began to lose some wind power as it hit Jamaica, then made landfall in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. At least 11 people died on its journey across the Caribbean, AccuWeather reported.

Contributing: Ryan Reynolds, Houston Harwood, Jon Webb, Sarah Loesch and MaCabe Brown, Evansville Courier & Press; Reuters

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Beryl updates: Texas gets heat wave amid massive power outages