Some power restored in Houston after Hurricane Beryl while storm spawns tornadoes as it moves east

Power started to come back for some of the millions of homes and businesses left in the dark when Hurricane Beryl slammed into the Houston area, while the weakened storm moved east, spawning suspected tornadoes and causing more damage.

Beryl was blamed for killing several people in Texas on Monday and at least one person in Louisiana, officials said.

After a peak Monday of more than 2.7 million customers around Houston without power, the numbers improved to more than 2.3 million homes and businesses lacking electricity by Tuesday morning, according to PowerOutage.us. The lack of cooling to people’s homes, downed power lines and non-functioning traffic lights led officials to ask residents to stay home if possible.

“Houstonians need to know we’re working around the clock so you will be safe,” Houston Mayor John Whitmire said Monday at a media briefing, urging residents to also know the dangers of high water, to stay hydrated and to check on their neighbors.

Beryl later Monday weakened into a tropical depression and by Tuesday morning the weather service said it was about 95 miles (155 kilometers) north of Shreveport, Louisiana, moving northeast with maximum sustained wind speeds near 30 mph (48 kph). Its strength wasn’t expected to change much in the next day or two.

While weakened, Beryl threatened to unleash more harsh weather over several other states in coming days. The storm was expected to bring heavy rainfall and possible flash flooding from the lower and mid-Mississippi Valley to the Great Lakes on Tuesday into Wednesday, the weather service said.

A flood watch was in effect for parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan and tornadoes were possible through the early morning across parts of the Mid-South. A few tornadoes were possible from midday to the early evening in Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, according to the weather service.

The storm still packed a punch, and the weather service confirmed on social media Monday evening that tornadoes had been spotted in northeastern Louisiana. Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington said in a Facebook post that a woman was killed in the Benton area when a tree fell on her home.

Dozens of tornado warnings were issued in Louisiana and Arkansas on Monday evening.

Texas state and local officials warned it could take several days to fully restore power after Beryl came ashore as a Category 1 hurricane, toppled 10 transmission lines and knocked down trees that took down power lines.

Beryl on Tuesday was far less powerful than the Category 5 behemoth that earlier tore a deadly path of destruction through parts of Mexico and the Caribbean. But its winds and rains still knocked down hundreds of trees that had already been teetering in water-saturated earth, and strand dozens of cars on flooded roadways.

“We’re not past any difficult conditions,” said Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is acting governor while Gov. Greg Abbott is out of the country.

Patrick said CenterPoint Energy was bringing thousands of additional workers to restore power, with top priorities including nursing homes and assisted living centers.

At least two people were killed when trees fell on homes in Texas, and a third person, a civilian employee of the Houston Police Department, was killed when he was trapped in floodwaters under a highway overpass, Whitmire said.

The loss of power was an all-too familiar experience for Houston: Powerful storms had just ripped through the area in May, killing eight people, leaving nearly 1 million without power and flooding numerous streets.

Residents without power after Beryl were doing their best.

“We haven’t really slept,” said Eva Costancio as she gazed at a large tree that had fallen across electric lines in her neighborhood in the Houston suburb of Rosenberg. Costancio said she had already been without power for several hours and worried that food in her refrigerator would be spoiled.

“We are struggling to have food and losing that food would be difficult,” she said.

Power crews were working to restore service as quickly as possible, an urgent priority for homes also left without air conditioning in the middle of summer. Temperatures in the 90s (above 32.2 Celsius) were expected Tuesday. The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory that said the area heat index could reach 105 degrees (40.5 C).

The state was opening cooling centers as well as food and water distribution centers, said Nim Kidd, chief of state emergency operations.

Beryl’s rains pounded Houston and other areas of the coast on Monday, reclosing streets in neighborhoods that had already been washed out by previous storms. Houston officials reported at least 25 water rescues by Monday afternoon, mostly for people with vehicles stuck in floodwaters.

Many streets and neighborhoods throughout Houston were littered with fallen branches and other debris. The buzz of chainsaws filled the air Monday afternoon as residents chopped up knocked-down trees and branches that had blocked streets and sidewalks.

Patrick warned that flooding could last for days as rain continued to fall on already saturated ground.

President Joe Biden was getting regular updates on the storm and called the Houston mayor on Monday, the White House said. He told the Mayor his administration will make sure Texans have the resources they need to get through the storm and recovery.

Several companies with refineries or industrial plants in the area reported that the power disruptions necessitated the flaring of gases at the facilities.

The earliest storm to develop into a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic, Beryl caused at least 11 deaths as it passed through the Caribbean on its way to Texas. In Jamaica, officials said Monday that island residents will have to contend with food shortages after Beryl destroyed over $6.4 million in crops and supporting infrastructure.

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Republished with permission from The Associated Press.




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