Beryl knocks out power to nearly 3 million people in Texas

HOUSTON (AP) — After Hurricane Beryl slammed into Texas early Monday morning, leaving nearly 3 million homes and businesses without power, dumping heavy rains and killing at least three people, the hurricane moved east and later weakened to a tropical depression, the National Hurricane Center said late Monday. The fast-moving storm threatened to carve a hard path across several states in the coming days.

Texas state and local officials warned that it could take several days for power to be restored after Beryl made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane, downing 10 power lines and knocking down trees that took power lines with it.

Beryl later weakened to a tropical storm and then to a tropical depression, much less powerful than the Category 5 behemoth that carved a deadly path of destruction across the United States. parts of Mexico And the Caribbean last weekend. But the wind and rain from the fast-moving storm were still powerful enough to topple hundreds of trees already teetering in the water-soaked earth and strand dozens of cars on flooded roads.

As the storm moved inland, it threatened to produce tornadoes, and the National Weather Service confirmed on social media 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.


Jimmy May walks through the windows as he prepares for the arrival of Hurricane Beryl, Sunday, July 7, 2024, in Port Lavaca, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

“We haven’t gotten through any difficult circumstances yet,” said Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is acting governor while Gov. Greg Abbott is out of the country, warning that it would be a “multi-day process to restore power.”

Houston was hit hard when CenterPoint Energy reported that more than 2 million homes and businesses were without power in and around the nation’s fourth-largest city. Patrick said the company brought on thousands of additional workers to help restore power, with top priorities going to places like nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

At least two people were killed when trees fell on homes, and the National Hurricane Center said destructive winds and flash flooding would continue as Beryl moved inland. A third person, a civilian employee of the Houston Police Department, was killed when he became trapped in floodwaters under a freeway overpass, Houston Mayor John Whitmire said. There were no immediate reports of widespread structural damage.

The power outages were a familiar occurrence in Houston: Severe storms ravaged the area in May, killing eight people, leaving nearly a million without power and flooding countless streets.

Residents who were without power after Beryl did their best.

“We didn’t really sleep,” Eva Costancio said as she stared at a large tree that had fallen over power lines in her neighborhood in the Houston suburb of Rosenberg. Costancio, 67, said she had been without power for several hours and worried that the food in her refrigerator had spoiled.


People watch as waves crash against a cliff face along 37th Street in Galveston, Texas, on Sunday, July 7, 2024. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)


Blake Braun loads his dog Dolly into his family’s car as the outer bands of Tropical Storm Beryl begin to approach the coast, July 7, 2024, in Port O’Connor, Texas. (Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

“We are struggling to get food and it would be difficult if we lost that food,” she said.

Houston and Harris County officials said power crews would be sent to the area to restore service as quickly as possible, an urgent priority for homes that were also without air conditioning in the middle of summer. Temperatures, which had cooled slightly during the storm, were expected to climb back into the 90s as early as Tuesday. The National Weather Service issued a heat warning that the area’s heat index could reach 105 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius).

The state will be ready to open cooling centers and food and water distribution centers, said Nim Kidd, the state’s chief of emergency operations.

Rainfall from Beryl lashed Houston and other parts of the coast on Monday, forcing streets in neighborhoods that had already been closed off. washed away by previous storms. Television stations broadcast the dramatic rescue Monday of a man who climbed onto the roof of his pickup truck after it became trapped in fast-moving water. Emergency crews used a fire truck’s extendable ladder to attach a life preserver and a line to him before pulling him to dry land.

Officials in Houston reported at least 25 floodwater rescues Monday afternoon, mostly of people whose cars were stuck in floodwaters.

“First responders put their lives in danger. That’s what they’re trained to do. It works,” said Houston Mayor John Whitmire.

Javier Mejia was one of about 20 people who gathered at the pickup truck rescue site to take photos of other submerged vehicles on the flooded highway.

“If you don’t have a way out, you’re stuck here,” Mejia said.

Mejia had been through storms in Houston before and had stocked up on food and water before Beryl hit, but he forgot gas for his portable generator. He planned to spend the day looking for some.

“I don’t want it to spoil,” he said of the food, adding that if he can’t find gas, “we can just fire up the grill.”

Many streets and neighborhoods in Houston were littered with fallen branches and other debris. The hum of chainsaws filled the air Monday afternoon as residents worked to cut down fallen trees and large branches that were blocking streets and sidewalks.

Patrick warned that the flooding could continue for days as rain continued to fall on already soggy ground.

“This is not a one-day event,” he said.

President Joe Biden received regular updates on the storm after it made landfall, the White House said. The U.S. Coast Guard and FEMA had prepared search and rescue teams, and FEMA gathered bottled water, meals, tarps and electrical generators in case they were needed.


Clyde George (left) and his son Chris George board up their home in preparation for the arrival of Tropical Storm Beryl on Sunday, July 7, 2024, in Port O’Connor, Texas. (Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Several companies with refineries or industrial facilities in the area reported that the power outages made it necessary to burn off gases at the facilities.

Marathon Petroleum Corp. said it was conducting “safe combustion of excess gases” at its Galveston Bay Refinery in Texas City, but did not provide information on the amount of gas flared or how long it would take. Formosa Plastics Corporation and Freeport LNG also reported flaring related to Beryl, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Companies have 24 hours to share emissions data after burning stops, a TCEQ representative said in an email.


Leo Cardin walks past a display at the Confederate Artillery Battery as he watches storm clouds loom over Beryl, Sunday, July 7, 2024, in Port Lavaca, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The first storm that developed into a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean, Beryl caused at least 11 deaths as it passed through the Caribbean en route to Texas. In Jamaica, officials said Monday that islanders dealing with food shortages after Beryl destroyed more than $6.4 million worth of crops and supporting infrastructure.

Heavy rain was expected throughout Monday in Louisiana, and “there is a high risk of heavy rainfall and flash flooding,” National Weather Service meteorologist Donald Jones said during a Facebook Live briefing Monday morning.

The weather service in Shreveport issued tornado warnings for northwestern Louisiana. The agency confirmed on social media that multiple tornadoes had been spotted in that corner of the state. Information on whether the weather caused significant damage was not immediately available.

Beryl was expected to bring more heavy rain and wind to other states in the coming days. One of those states, Missouri, was already experiencing a wet summer. Heavy rain unrelated to the storm prompted several rescues around the city of Columbia, where rivers and creeks were already high ahead of Beryl’s expected arrival on Tuesday.


Associated Press reporters Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas; Corey Williams in Detroit; Julie Walker in New York; Melina Walling in Chicago; and Jeff Martin in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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