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Beryl leaves hot misery in its wake as the still-dangerous storm churns into the US interior

1 week 4 days 23 hours ago Tuesday, July 09 2024 Jul 9, 2024 July 09, 2024 7:45 AM July 09, 2024 in News
Source: Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) — Many of the millions left without power when Hurricane Beryl crashed into the Houston area, killing several people and unleashing flooding, now face days without power and air conditioning as dangerous heat threatens the region Tuesday.

A heat advisory was in effect through Wednesday in parts of Texas, with temperatures in the 90s (above 32.2 Celsius) and heat index values up to 105 degrees (40.5 Celsius) expected Tuesday. The widespread loss of power — and therefore air conditioning — could make for dangerous conditions, the National Weather Service said.

More than 2.3 million homes and businesses around Houston lacked electricity Tuesday morning, down from a peak of over 2.7 million on Monday, according to PowerOutage.us. The lack of cooling to people’s homes, downed power lines and nonfunctioning 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 was blamed for killing several people in Texas and at least one in Louisiana, officials said.

The storm weakened into a tropical depression after making landfall, and by Tuesday morning its center was over southwestern Arkansas, moving northeast with maximum sustained wind speeds near 30 mph (48 kph), the weather service said. Its strength wasn’t expected to change much in the next day or two.

Beryl still threatened to unleash more harsh weather over several other states in coming days. It is 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 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.

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 roads.

“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. CenterPoint said in an update Monday evening that it expected to restore power to 1 million customers by the end of Wednesday.

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 ripped through the area in May, killing eight people, leaving nearly 1 million without power and flooding 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.

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 Monday, closing streets 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.

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

Several companies with refineries or industrial plants reported the power disruptions required the flaring of gases.

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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