Beryl weakens but leaves millions without power in Texas (2024)

World

/ CBS/AP

Beryl leaves millions without power in Texas

Berylwas still posing a threat Tuesday even though it was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone after making landfall early Monday as a Category 1 hurricane. At least seven deaths from the storm have been reported in Texas, and millions across the state remain without power. Another person was confirmed dead in Louisiana due to the storm.

Beryl slammed into the Gulf Coast of Texas between Galveston and Corpus Christi, just south of Houston, dumping heavy rain across the region, and toppling trees and power lines in addition to knocking out power to millions of homes and businesses, with Houston hit especially hard.

Hundreds of thousands of customers still without power

Power outages across Texas topped 3 million customers at their peak, many in the greater Houston area, according to the tracking sitePowerOutage.usandreporting by KHOU.As of Tuesday night, that number was down to a little more than 1.73 million, per PowerOutage.us.

CenterPoint Energy, a utility company based in hard-hit Houston, had seen the greatest power losses of all of the providers being tracked, with well over half of its 2.6 million customers reporting outages at the storm's height, according to the site.

Many of the millions left without power sweltered and grumbled Tuesday as the storm gutted access to air conditioning, food and water, and smothering heat and humidity draped Houston.

Frustration mounted that Houston appeared to buckle under a storm not as powerful as previous ones. State officials were questioned whether utilities were prepared in advance, and at least one said they would withhold judgement until after the lights were turned back on.

A heat advisory took effect through Wednesday in the Houston area and beyond, with temperatures expected to soar into the 90s and humidity that could make it feel as hot as 105 degrees. The National Weather Service described the conditions as potentially dangerous given the lack of power and air conditioning.

Nim Kidd, head of the state's division of emergency management, said at a news conference with other officials that restoring power is the No. 1 priority. And in Washington, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration. Emergency crews hope to have power restored to an additional 1 million people by the end of the day, she said.

It could take days to fully return power in Texas after Beryl toppled 10 transmission lines. Top priorities for power restoration include nursing homes and assisted living centers, said said Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is acting as governor while Gov. Greg Abbott is out of the country. Sixteen hospitals were running on generator power Tuesday morning, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Houston hospitals were having a crowding problem because they haven't been able to release patients who can't return to homes with no power, Patrick said. A large sports and events complex will be used to temporarily hold up to 250 patients who are released from hospitals.

Food spoiled in listless refrigerators in Houston neighborhoods that pined for air conditioning. Long lines of cars and people queued up at any fast food restaurant, food truck or gas station that had power and was open.

Patrons lined up on one block to eat at KFC, Jack in the Box or Denny's — or just to get a few minutes in some cooler air. Dwight Yell, 54, had power at his house but took a disabled neighbor, who did not, to Denny's for some food.

He complained that city and state officials did not alert residents well enough to a storm initially projected to land much farther down the coast: "They didn't give us enough warning, where maybe we could go get gas or prepare to go out of town if the lights go out."

Officials on Tuesday advised residents of Fort Bend County, which is about 35 miles outside of Houston, to be prepared for debris collection in Beryl's aftermath, CBS affiliate KHOU reported. Fort Bend County Judge K.P. George said Monday night that a collapsed apartment complex was among the damages, and almost 40 people had been displaced as a result.

Houston emergency management officials asked residents to avoid all unnecessary travel on Tuesday to allow crews to begin cleaning up debris and restoring power.

"By staying off the roads, first responders and repair crews can reach emergencies, remove debris and restore power as quickly as possible," Houston Emergency Management wrote in asocial media post.

As of 8 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Beryl was officially classified as a post-tropical cyclone, with maximum sustained winds of 30 mph. It was centered about 15 miles southwest of Indianapolis, and was moving northeast at 20 mph.

A flood watch was in place for Illinois, northern Indiana, southern Michigan, northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Western Maine.

"Heavy rainfall of 2 to 4 inches, with locally higher amounts, is expected across portions of the lower Missouri and mid-Mississippi Valleys into the Great Lakes today into Wednesday and from northern New York into northern New England Wednesday and Wednesday night," the hurricane center said.

Beryl weakens but leaves millions without power in Texas (1)

CBS News senior weather and climate producer David Parkinson said that "the tornado threat continues today, with the area between Louisville, Indianapolis and Cincinnati being a key spot to focus on."

Around 3,400 flightswere canceled or delayed Monday, many originating or ending in Texas airports, as airlines felt the impact of the storm. That number dropped significantly on Tuesday, although hundreds of flights into and out of Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport were still experiencing cancellations or delays, according to the tracking website FlightAware.

The deaths reported Monday by local officialsincludeda man in Harris County killed when a tree fell on a home in Atascocita, which is in the Houston area. In a separate incident, Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman said a tree fell through the roof of a home, killing a 74-year-old woman. Houston Mayor John Whitmire said Monday evening that a volunteer was killed when his vehicle was submerged in flood water while he was on his way to help with the storm response, and a man was killed in a house fire blamed on Beryl.

Three people were also killed in Texas' Montgomery County. One man in his 40s was killed when he was hit by a falling tree while operating a tractor, the county's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said in a statement Monday night. Two more people were found dead in a tent in Magnolia, which is about 40 miles northwest of Houston, the office said.

One additional storm-related death was reported in Louisiana on Monday evening, where the Bossier Parish coroner said a 31-year-old woman died when a tree fell on her home in Benton, which is just north of Shreveport.

Disaster declaration, closures and evacuations

Patrick, who is serving as the state's acting governor while Gov. Greg Abbott is traveling overseas, issued a preemptive disaster declaration over the weekend for 121 counties.

President Biden announced in a statement Tuesday evening that he had issued a major disaster declaration for the "damage sustained" by Beryl in Texas. The declaration frees up federal emergency resources for Texas.

"As part of the federal support, we pre-positioned generators and are moving in additional ones to support any power outages, which will help Texans as the extreme heat arrives," Biden said.

In his statement, Mr. Biden said he spoke to Patrick by phone Tuesday. However, in an interview with the Houston Chronicle, the president said that the disaster declaration was delayed because his office had been attempting to "track down" Abbott and Patrick, but had been allegedly unable to reach either until Tuesday.

"I've been trying to track down the governor to see — I don't have any authority to do that without a specific request from the governor," Mr. Biden told the Chronicle.

A White House spokesperson told the Chronicle that the office tried to reach both men multiple times.

Some areas had been placed under mandatory evacuation orders.Refugio County, which is just north of Corpus Christi, ordered a mandatory evacuation on Saturday afternoon. Port Aransas, located on a barrier island in Nueces County just east of Corpus Christi,ordered a mandatory evacuationfor all visitors beginning at noon Sunday. All Nueces County residents were also "strongly encouraged" to evacuate as well,county officials said.

Along with some mandatory evacuations, Texas coastal cities called for voluntary evacuations in low-lying areas prone to flooding, banned beach camping and urged tourists traveling on the July 4 holiday weekend to move recreational vehicles from coastal parks.

Beryl weakens but leaves millions without power in Texas (2)

The Houston Independent School District announced it was closing all campuses and buildings on Monday and Tuesday due to the storm.

"All summer classes and activities are canceled, and all District activities and events – including professional development and recruiting sessions – are canceled," HISD said in a message to families and staff on Sunday evening.

Storm forecast and impacts

Beryl lashed southeastern Texas with torrential downpours and powerful winds as it moved farther inland in the hours after landfall on Monday. But meteorologists said the potential storm surge — forecast to reach 6 feet in some areas — was among the greatest causes for concern.

On Monday evening, the National Hurricane Center said there was flooding and the risk of tornadoes in eastern Texas, western Louisiana and Arkansas. Even after the storm passes, the center urged people to be cautious of "deadly hazards" that could remain.

Beryl weakens but leaves millions without power in Texas (3)

The hurricane center had warned earlier that "life-threatening storm surge, damaging winds and flooding rainfall" was spreading over southeastern Texas as Beryl tracked northward.

The hurricane center lifted all storm surge and tropical storm warnings for Texas as of Monday night. Warnings had earlier been in effect for a 255-mile stretch of southeastern coastal Texas.

Reporting from Galveston Monday morning, CBS News correspondent Omar Villafranca said wind gusts of 70 mph had spun up a "nonstop" mix of sand and rain in the coastal city. Villafranca said that had been the case for several hours.

Beryl weakens but leaves millions without power in Texas (4)

CBS News senior weather and climate producer David Parkinson said the Houston metropolitan area had been getting drenched with in 2-3 inches of per per hour.

Beryl's deadly, destructive path

Beryl caused at least 11 deaths as it passed through the Caribbean islands last week. Beryl then hit Tulum, Mexico, as aCategory 2hurricane before weakening to a tropical storm as it moved across the peninsula.

The head of Mexico's civil defense agency, Laura Velázquez, said Beryl hadn't caused any deaths or injuries there and that "damages were minor," though tens of thousands of people remained without power.

Beryl weakens but leaves millions without power in Texas (5)

Tulum was plunged into darkness when the storm knocked out power as it came ashore. Screeching winds set off car alarms across the town. Wind and rain continued to whip the seaside city and surrounding areas Friday morning. Army brigades roved the streets of the tourist city, clearing fallen trees and power lines.

Beryl weakens but leaves millions without power in Texas (6)

Although no dead or wounded have been reported, nearly half of Tulum continued to be without electricity, said Laura Velázquez, national coordinator of Mexican Civil Protection.

Before hitting Mexico and moving into the Gulf, Beryl had spread destruction in Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Barbados. Three people have been reported dead in Grenada, three in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, three in Venezuela and two in Jamaica, officials said.

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness promised swift relief for residents affected by Hurricane Beryl after visiting one of the worst-affected areas of the island, the southern parish of St Elizabeth on Thursday afternoon.

Beryl weakens but leaves millions without power in Texas (7)

Earlier in the week, the hurricane damaged or destroyed 95% of homes on a pair of islands in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, jumbled fishing boats in Barbados and ripped off roofs and knocked out electricity in Jamaica.

On Union Island, part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a man who identified himself as Captain Baga described the storm's impact, including how he had filled two 2,000-gallon rubber water tanks in preparation.

"I strapped them down securely on six sides; and I watched the wind lift those tanks and take them away — filled with water," he said Thursday. "I'm a sailor and I never believed wind could do what I saw it do. If anyone (had) ever told me wind could do that, I would have told them they lie!"

Historic hurricane

Beryl was the earliest storm to developinto a Category 5 hurricanein the Atlantic, and was only the second Category 5 storm recorded in July since 2005, according to the hurricane center.

It took Beryl only 42 hours to strengthen from a tropical depression to a major hurricane, which is aCategory 3 storm or higher— a feat accomplished only six other times in Atlantic hurricane history, and with Sept. 1 as the earliest date, according to hurricane expert Sam Lillo.

Beryl was also the third Category 3 hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic in June, following Audrey in 1957 and Alma in 1966, hurricane specialist and storm surge expert Michael Lowry said.

"Beryl is an extremely dangerous and rare hurricane for this time of year in this area," he told the AP in a phone interview. "Unusual is an understatement," he said, calling Beryl historic.

Hurricane Ivan in 2004 was the last strongest hurricane to hit the southeast Caribbean, causing catastrophic damage in Grenada as a Category 3 storm.

Beryl is the second named storm in what is predicted to be a busy hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 in the Atlantic. Warm waters fueled Beryl, with ocean heat content in the deep Atlantic the highest on record for this time of year, according to Brian McNoldy, University of Miami tropical meteorology researcher.

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Beryl weakens but leaves millions without power in Texas (2024)
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