Beryl knocks the power down to nearly 3 million in Texas

HOUSTON (AP) — Hurricane Beryl slammed into Texas early Monday, knocking out power to nearly 3 million homes and businesses, unleashing heavy rain and killing at least three people as it moved eastward and then weakened into a tropical depression, the National Hurricane Center said. Monday evening. The fast-moving storm threatened to make a severe track over several more states in the coming days.

Texas state and local officials warned it could take days to restore power after Beryl came ashore as a Category 1 hurricane, toppling 10 transmission lines and downing trees that brought down power lines.

Beryl later weakened to a tropical storm and then a tropical depression, much less powerful than the Category 5 behemoth that tore a deadly destructive path. Some parts of Mexico And Caribbean Last weekend. But the fast-moving storm’s winds and rain were powerful enough to uproot hundreds of trees that were already dangling from the waterlogged earth and dozens of cars onto flooded roads.

As it moved inland, the storm threatened to develop into a tornado and the National Weather Service confirmed on social media that a tornado was spotted in northeast Louisiana. A woman has died after a tree fell in Benton, Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington said in a Facebook post.


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

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick warned that while Gov. Greg Abbott is out of the country, “we’re not going through any difficult situations.”

Houston was hit hard as CenterPoint Energy reported that more than 2 million homes and businesses in and around the nation’s fourth-largest city were without power. Patrick said the company is bringing in thousands of additional workers to restore power, prioritizing places like nursing homes and assisted living centers.

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At least two people were killed when trees fell on homes, and the National Hurricane Center said damaging winds and flash flooding will continue as Beryl moves inland. A third person, a civilian employee of the Houston Police Department, was killed by floodwaters under a freeway overpass, Houston Mayor John Whitmire said. However, there were no immediate reports of widespread structural damage.

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

Residents without power after Beryl were doing what they could.

“We didn’t really sleep,” Eva Costancio said as she watched a large tree fall across power lines in her neighborhood in the Houston suburb of Rosenberg. Costancio, 67, said he had already been without power for several hours and was worried the food in his fridge would spoil.

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People watch waves crash against the 37th Street Rock Bank in Galveston, Texas, Sunday, July 7, 2024. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

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

“We struggle to get food and it’s hard to lose that food,” he said.

Houston and Harris County officials said power crews will be dispatched to the area to restore service as quickly as possible, with homes without air conditioning an urgent priority in mid-summer. Temperatures, cooled slightly by the storm, were expected to return to the 90s by Tuesday. The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory, which said the area heat index could reach 105 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius).

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

Rain of beryl lashed Houston and other parts of the coast on Monday, closing streets in already-extended neighborhoods. Destroyed by previous storms. Television stations on Monday aired the dramatic rescue of a man who got caught in fast-moving water and climbed onto the roof of his pickup truck. Before moving him to dry land, emergency crews used an extension ladder from the fire truck to lower him into a life preserver and tether.

Houston officials reported at least 25 water rescues as of Monday afternoon, mostly for people with flooded vehicles.

“First responders are putting their lives on the line. That’s what they’re trained to do. It’s working,” said Houston Mayor John Whitmire.

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

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

Mejia, who had experienced previous storms in Houston, stocked up on food and water before Beryl hit, but forgot the gas for her small generator. He planned to pass the time by looking for some people.

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

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 cut down trees and large branches that blocked streets and sidewalks.

Patrick warned that flooding could continue for several days as rain continues to fall on already saturated ground.

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

The White House said President Joe Biden was receiving regular updates on the storm after it made landfall. The US Coast Guard and FEMA prepared search and rescue teams, and FEMA collected bottled water, food, tarps, and electric generators if needed.

Several companies with refineries or industrial plants reported that power outages necessitated flaring of gases at facilities.

Marathon Petroleum Corp. said it conducted a “safe flaring of excess gases” at its Galveston Bay refinery in Texas City, but did not provide information on the amount of gas flaring or how long it would continue. Formosa Plastics Corp. and Freeport LNG also reported beryl-related flare-ups, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Standards.

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

The initial storm develops into a Category 5 hurricane In the Atlantic, beryl caused at least 11 deaths en route to Texas via the Caribbean. In Jamaica, officials said Monday that island residents will have to Struggling with food shortages Beryl spent more than $6.4 million after destroying crops and supporting infrastructure.

In Louisiana, heavy rain is expected throughout the day Monday, and “there will be a risk of that heavy rain and flash flooding,” National Weather Service meteorologist Donald Jones said in a Facebook Live conference call Monday morning.

The weather service in Shreveport issued a tornado warning for all of northwest Louisiana. The agency confirmed on social media that several tornadoes were spotted in that corner of the state. Information on whether those weather events caused any significant damage was not immediately available.

Beryl is forecast to bring more heavy rains and winds to additional states in the coming days. One of them is that Missouri has already faced a wet summer. Heavy rain unrelated to the storm prompted several water rescues around the city of Columbia, where rivers and creeks were already high ahead of Beryl’s expected arrival on Tuesday.

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Associated Press reporters Jim Verduno 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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