1.7M without power in Texas as dangerous heat follows in Beryl's wake

Updated

HOUSTON — More than 1.7 million customers in Texas were still without power Wednesday morning, depriving many of air conditioning during a dangerous heat wave, 48 hours after Hurricane Beryl made landfall on the Gulf Coast.

And the Midwest and the Northeast braced for heavy rain, flash flooding, thunderstorms and possible tornadoes as Beryl continues to make its way north.

The National Weather Service office in Houston said: "With power outages continuing across southeast Texas, the lack of air-conditioning will aggravate the risk for heat-related illnesses as high temperatures warm into the lower and mid-90s."

The heat index, a measure of how hot it feels that takes humidity into account, will reach 106 Wednesday, it said. People are urged to check on family members and pets and to limit outdoor activity. Cooling centers are open across Houston.

The effects of Hurricane Beryl left most in the area without power. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Eric Gay / AP)
The effects of Hurricane Beryl left most in the area without power. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Eric Gay / AP)

Melissa Hunziker, from Houston, is just about coping in the heat with no power: "Our house is actually pretty cool, right now, but we know that will change quickly ahead."

"We’ve got a portable fan that is chargeable battery operated. So that helped last night, but we won’t probably stay another night," she said.

It's not just the power shortage, but the loss of cellphone connectivity that is hard to deal with, making emergency information hard to reach, Hunziker said.

Kassie Rieger and Keaton Cravens were out in Houston to offer help to those in need. “We just hope people are staying safe and doing what they can to help their neighbors," Rieger told NBC News.

CenterPoint Energy, the main supplier for the Greater Houston area, said in a statement Tuesday night that it had restored power to 850,000 customers since Beryl arrived, one-third of the total affected. The company said its staff walked 4,500 miles on foot to check circuits, with help from helicopter and drone surveillance.

More than half of the 2.1 million energy customers in Harris County were without power Tuesday afternoon, the company's online tracker shows. The main elements of CenterPoint's energy system remain intact, the statement said, including its transmission towers and substations.

The category one hurricane, which made a direct hit on the city of Houston in Texas with 80 miles per hour winds at landfall, left more than two million people without power in the Houston area and beyond.
(Photo by Danielle Villasana for The Washington Post via Getty Images) (Danielle Villasana / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The category one hurricane, which made a direct hit on the city of Houston in Texas with 80 miles per hour winds at landfall, left more than two million people without power in the Houston area and beyond. (Photo by Danielle Villasana for The Washington Post via Getty Images) (Danielle Villasana / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

"We have made solid progress and exceeded the number of customer restorations following Hurricane Ike, but we have a lot of important work ahead, especially in the hardest-hit areas where the work will be more complex and time-consuming," said Lynnae Wilson, senior vice president of the company's Electric Business division.

Houston Mayor John Whitmire told a news conference Tuesday that traffic lights were out across the city and urged people to stay home where possible after dark.

"Right behind public safety is restoring city and county services with the highest priority of electricity and energy. We’re doing everything we possibly can to see that your electricity is restored," he said.

Houston Police Chief Larry J. Satterwhite told the same news conference that officers had received more than 100 calls of suspected carbon monoxide leaks, as well as dealing with broken gas and electricity lines. He warned that some trees and power lines that have not yet fallen may do so in the days ahead.

A Kroger grocery store without power in Houston, Texas, US, on Tuesday, July 9, 2024.  (Mark Felix / Bloomberg via Getty Images)
A Kroger grocery store without power in Houston, Texas, US, on Tuesday, July 9, 2024. (Mark Felix / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Now a post-tropical cyclone, Beryl continues to make its way north through the Midwest, prompting flood watches and warnings for parts of Illinois, northern Indiana and southern Michigan, as well as the interior Northeast, including central and northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Beryl's maximum sustained wind speed has dropped to 30 mph, but it will still bring at least 2 to 4 inches of rain and tornadoes are possible through New York on Wednesday.

Some 2 million people are at risk of severe thunderstorms Wednesday across northern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.

At least 10 people in the United States have died since Beryl made landfall Monday, many of them from trees falling onto their homes, amid widespread flooding and disruption.

Downed Power Lines And Trees In Houston After Hurricane Beryl (Reginald Mathalone / NurPhoto via AP)
Downed Power Lines And Trees In Houston After Hurricane Beryl (Reginald Mathalone / NurPhoto via AP)

“Our hearts grieve for all Texans impacted by Hurricane Beryl, including our fellow Texans who tragically lost their lives or were injured,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who is away on a diplomatic trip, said in a statement Tuesday. "We also will continue to stay in contact with electrical providers about the necessity to quickly restore power," he added.

President Joe Biden has granted a federal major disaster declaration, which will reimburse up to 75% of the costs for debris clearance and other emergency measures.

Social media footage from Houston shows houses destroyed by falling trees.

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