Millions Without Power After Beryl Batters Houston (2024)

Pinned

J. David Goodman

Houston bureau chief

Here’s the latest on the storm.

Tropical Storm Beryl brought thunderstorms and tornado warnings to East Texas and parts of Arkansas and Louisiana on Monday evening, after lashing Houston and its suburbs with strong winds and torrential rains. The storm killed four people in the Houston area and knocked out power to nearly three million homes and businesses.

Houston, the nation’s fourth-most populous metro area, began assessing the damage late Monday and recovering from the storm’s impact. The winds had been stronger than expected, officials said, blowing down trees across the city. So much rain fell that sections of highways were transformed into rivers, and at least eight people had to be rescued from high water.

Here’s what to know:

  • The forecast: Beryl, which made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane in Matagorda, Texas, had devolved to a tropical depression on Monday evening, with sustained winds of 35 m.p.h. The storm was expected to continue to produce flooding rains and the risk of tornadoes across portions of Eastern Texas, Western Louisiana and Arkansas. Here’s where the storm is going next.

  • Four deaths in Houston: One of the four fatalities was a civilian employee of the Houston Police Department who drowned when his car became submerged in high water. Two people were killed when trees crashed onto their homes. And a fourth died in a house fire that officials said was believed to have been caused by lightning.

  • The damage elsewhere: Beryl tore a deadly path across the Caribbean last week before crossing the Gulf of Mexico, killing at least 11 people as it flattened islands, inundated communities and became the first hurricane to reach Category 5 status this early in the season.

  • Climate’s role: Researchers have found that climate change has increased the frequency of major hurricanes. It is also making hurricanes intensify faster and produce more rain with a higher storm surge. Beryl’s quick escalation to a major hurricane is a bad sign for the rest of the season.

July 8, 2024, 7:56 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 7:56 p.m. ET

Judson Jones

Meteorologist

Beryl is now a tropical depression with sustained winds of 35 m.p.h. The storm is about 225 miles south of Little Rock, Ark., and will continue to produce flooding rains and the risk of tornadoes across parts of eastern Texas, western Louisiana and Arkansas.

Millions Without Power After Beryl Batters Houston (3)

July 8, 2024, 7:55 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 7:55 p.m. ET

Derek M. Norman

A majority of the flights out Houston's two major airports remain cancelled through the rest of Monday evening, with only some scheduled to depart, according to Flightradar24, a live flight tracker. Houston's airports have advised travelers to stay off the roads and to work with their airlines to rebook any flights for another day if they could.

Passengers: Houston Airports echoes Mayor Whitmire’s calls to stay off the roads today. Travel is not advised.

Because of #Beryl, airlines have travel waivers in place to rebook flights for another day, without cost for flights between July 7 and July 9. https://t.co/Wg4N5QKZQw

— Houston Airports (@AirportsHouston) July 8, 2024
Tropical Depression Beryl TrackerSee the likely path, rainfall and wind arrival times for Beryl.

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July 8, 2024, 6:50 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 6:50 p.m. ET

Ivan Penn

Reporting on the energy industry and utilities

Facing lengthy repairs, a major utility considers mobile generators for key sites.

Image

With millions of utility customers in East Texas cut off from electricity by the storm, the utility serving the overwhelming majority of those customers said it was working to set up mobile power sources for critical facilities.

The utility, CenterPoint Energy, which supplies power in and around Houston, said that some 2.26 million customers had lost their electric service at the peak on Monday, and that the figure had since fallen only slightly.

The company said it was looking into using mobile generation units to provide temporary power to places like cooling centers, health care facilities, police and fire stations, senior centers and educational centers.

“We are mobilizing all of our available resources, as well as mutual assistance resources from other utility companies, to begin the process of quickly and safely restoring power to our customers,” Lynnae Wilson, senior vice president for electric business at CenterPoint, said in a statement. “We understand how difficult it is to be without power for any amount of time, especially in the heat.”

The utility said it had begun assessing damage to its facilities and rerouting power to transmission lines that had not been damaged.

Once it has assessed the damage, CenterPoint said, it will publish estimates for how soon service can be substantially restored. Customers in the hardest-hit areas should prepare for an extended period without electricity, the company said.

“This will be a multiday restoration effort,” said Thomas Gleeson, the chairman of the state’s Public Utility Commission, discussing the widespread power outages. “It’s going to take a few days to get this restored.”

July 8, 2024, 6:46 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 6:46 p.m. ET

J. David Goodman

Houston bureau chief

“This will be a multiday restoration effort,” said Thomas Gleeson, the chairman of the state’s Public Utility Commission, discussing the widespread power outages. “It’s going to take a few days to get this restored.”

Image

July 8, 2024, 6:44 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 6:44 p.m. ET

J. David Goodman

Houston bureau chief

“We’re not past difficult conditions, but the storm, by midnight, will be beyond us,” Dan Patrick, the lieutenant governor of Texas, said at a news conference. “There are a number of tornadoes now being reported in northeast Texas.”

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July 8, 2024, 6:13 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 6:13 p.m. ET

J. David Goodman

Houston bureau chief

Senator Ted Cruz is appearing alongside Mayor John Whitmire during an afternoon news conference. Cruz, a Republican who lives in Houston, received significant criticism when he flew to Cancun during a deadly winter storm that paralyzed the city in 2021.

July 8, 2024, 6:05 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 6:05 p.m. ET

Edgar Sandoval

Reporting from Matagorda, Texas

The tiny Texas town where Beryl made landfall counts its blessings.

Image

On Monday morning, when the fire chief of the small coastal town of Matagorda, Texas, began to survey the damage wrought by Hurricane Beryl in the middle of the night, she saw thickets of fallen trees. At least one man, she learned, had been picked up by an ambulance after being struck by a door flapping in the wind. And the town had no power or internet service.

But considering that Beryl’s path had taken it directly through the hamlet, Matagorda had fared well, according to the chief, Gail Cook.

Matagorda, which lies between Galveston and Corpus Christi, was largely a ghost town on Monday, at a time of year when it would normally be bustling with visitors. Clay Cook, the president of the fire board and Ms. Cook’s husband, said that more than half of the full-time residents, out of a total of about 1,000, had heeded warnings and evacuated.

“That was very prudent, very good,” he said. “Very few people stayed behind.”

The local hotel, Cassady’s, suffered the most visible damage. The storm blew shingles off the roof, and it was missing metal pieces.

Ms. Cook said she got up at around 1:54 a.m. “I heard the wind,” she said, recounting how the screens in four of her doors flew away in the gale. Her three-bedroom condo, made out metal, was able to withstand the force. “It actually held on pretty well,” she said.

There were no reports of high water.

The eye of the storm passed through Matagorda around 4 a.m. The Cooks said that when that happened, it felt as though time was standing still.

“You went outside, and there was no wind,” Mr. Cook said. “Then the winds returned for another hour.”

One man in his 80s was taken to a hospital with injuries after he stepped out of his house in the middle of the night when the wind was heavy. “It blew the door open, and it knocked him down,” Ms. Cook said. “Otherwise, we heard nothing.”

Over at Stanley’s General Store, a generator kept the lights on. The store operator, Kelley Keys, said she could not keep up with the demand for gasoline, ice and water. Ms. Keys, who invested $48,000 in a FEMA trailer house built to withstand strong winds, said she felt safe inside but could feel the structure swaying. She rushed to the store in the morning, knowing that people would be needing supplies.

At the back of the line at the store, Luke Rawlings, 54, said that he was thankful that very few structures in the town were battered by the storm. His own barn-shaped condo survived as well. “This is just par for the course here,” Mr. Rawlings said. “Every summer, we know that hurricanes are coming.”

Mayor John Whitmire of Houston attributed two additional deaths to the storm: a person who died in a house fire that was believed to have been caused by lightning, and a civilian employee of the city’s police department who drowned in his car when it became submerged in high water. That's in addition to two people killed by falling trees.

July 8, 2024, 5:57 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 5:57 p.m. ET

J. David Goodman

Houston bureau chief

Whitmire said in a news conference that the civilian police employee had tried to call people from the department for help. He asked for a moment of silence during the news conference.

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July 8, 2024, 4:53 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 4:53 p.m. ET

Judson Jones

Meteorologist

Beryl remains a tropical storm with 45 m.p.h. winds and will continue to weaken through the night, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center. Excessive rain and the threat of tornadoes will continue in eastern Texas and western Louisiana through the evening.

July 8, 2024, 4:30 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 4:30 p.m. ET

Rick Rojas

Reporting from Sugar Land, Texas

A dashboard view of Houston, after the storm.

Image

Many of Houston’s highways, usually choked with traffic, were nearly devoid of cars on Monday afternoon, as much of the city heeded warnings to stay home after Tropical Storm Beryl flooded streets and knocked down trees throughout the region.

Officials have emphatically discouraged residents from going out, and there is little reason for them to do so: Many businesses are closed. The rare one I saw open was a gas station, and it had a line of vehicles stretching down the street.

Close to downtown, the authorities had closed some highways and roads, after the water had gotten so high that the only way to navigate it would have been by boat.

Still, some drivers dared venture out, and many who did were forced to make a dangerous calculation: estimating the depth of waterlogged roads and then assessing whether their vehicle can travel safely through it.

Not everyone has done the math successfully.

Near Buffalo Bayou, northwest of downtown, police officers were patrolling on boats. At least one vehicle had been fished out.

July 8, 2024, 4:16 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 4:16 p.m. ET

Shannon Sims

Reporting from Houston

Houston’s toads burst into song during the storm. Here’s why.

Video

Millions Without Power After Beryl Batters Houston (15)

Amid the cacophony of pelting rain, exploding fuse boxes and cracking tree limbs, another sound followed Tropical Storm Beryl across the Houston area on Monday: a soprano trill, not unlike Cardi B’s signature “okurrr.”

It was the mating call of the male Gulf Coast toad.

This species of toad is rotund, about the size of a tangerine, and speckled brown with a vanilla-colored belly. But you don’t see them as often as you hear them.

On summer nights around Houston, they chime in a competitive chorus. But it’s unusual to hear them during the day.

Beryl seems to have changed that, though. As the storm crossed the metro area on Monday morning, the call of the toads echoed from flooded street corners.

Most toad species breed in the early spring, said Paul Crump, a herpetologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. But given the right conditions, he said, the Gulf Coast toad can breed repeatedly throughout the summer, laying eggs in the temporary pools that form across the city during rainstorms.

The brisk air brought on by Beryl’s winds — unusual during Houston’s scorching summers — might have helped get the toads in the mood.

“They are breeding because the weather conditions, like the rain, cooler temperatures and barometric pressure drops, stimulate them to do so,” Mr. Crump said.

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July 8, 2024, 3:13 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 3:13 p.m. ET

Rick Rojas

Reporting from Sugar Land, Texas

With chunks of debris and pools of water blocking off roads, drivers around Houston are making a dangerous calculation: estimating the depth of waterlogged roads and then assessing whether their vehicle can travel safely through it. Not everyone has done the math successfully.

Image

July 8, 2024, 2:48 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 2:48 p.m. ET

Ivan Penn

Reporting on the energy industry and utilities

About one out of every five electricity customers in Texas had lost power by midday from the effects of Beryl, with most of the more than 2.7 million outages stemming from one utility in the Houston area. CenterPoint Energy, which provides retail electricity in two states, said more than 2.2 million of its customers were without power in the Houston area. The company said crews would begin to assess and repair damage to the system when it is safe to do so.

July 8, 2024, 2:21 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 2:21 p.m. ET

Judson Jones

Meteorologist

Beryl is 55 miles north of Houston, weakening as it moves deeper inland but still unleashing gusty winds and flooding rainfall. The threat of tornadoes has increased this afternoon in eastern Texas and western Louisiana, with more than half a dozen active warnings across the region.

Forecast risk of tornadoes for Monday

Risk

Some

Moderate

High

Get notified about extreme weather risks in places you choose »

Source: National Weather ServiceNotes: This map indicates risk in up to three tiers: Some, there is at least some chance of extreme weather in the area; Moderate, it is likely that damaging weather will happen in the area; and High, extreme, dangerous weather is expected in the area. Data is as of [DATETIME] and is not available for Alaska and Hawaii.By The New York Times

Millions Without Power After Beryl Batters Houston (19)

July 8, 2024, 2:10 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 2:10 p.m. ET

Derek M. Norman

Both of Houston’s major airports, as well as smaller airports in Harris County and Galveston, remain closed because of tropical storm-force winds. The Federal Aviation Administration said the airports will reopen over the next few hours as Beryl’s winds diminish.

Miguel has an update about how #Beryl is affecting flights. Check your flight status with your airline before you head to the airport and monitor https://t.co/smgdqJN3td. Learn how we prepare for severe weather at https://t.co/rqvwpEQUDy. #FAAWeatherSquad pic.twitter.com/zvAxbj8mCV

— The FAA ✈️ (@FAANews) July 8, 2024

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Millions Without Power After Beryl Batters Houston (20)

July 8, 2024, 1:56 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 1:56 p.m. ET

Hiroko Tabuchi

Reporting on pollution and the environment

The fuel giant Marathon Petroleum said Monday that its Galveston Bay Refinery had lost power during the storm and was burning off excess gases as a safety measure. Storms can force the oil and gas refineries and petrochemical plants that line the Gulf coast to flare copious amounts of gas. In 2017, Houston’s network of plants and refineries released millions of pounds of pollutants in the days after Hurricane Harvey began barreling toward Texas.

July 8, 2024, 1:37 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 1:37 p.m. ET

Rick Rojas

Reporting from Sugar Land, Texas

In the Houston suburb of Sugar Land, which the center of Beryl passed over, the worst of the storm is finished. The winds no longer sound like a whistling tea kettle as they hit my window. But the gusts are still quite strong.

July 8, 2024, 1:44 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 1:44 p.m. ET

Rick Rojas

Reporting from Sugar Land, Texas

As I cautiously venture out around Sugar Land, the damage appears to be largely limited to shredded trees, their limbs littering the roads, and an interruption in cell service.

Millions Without Power After Beryl Batters Houston (23)

July 8, 2024, 1:36 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 1:36 p.m. ET

Jordan Vonderhaar

Reporting from Sugar Land, Texas

High winds from the storm knocked down trees in Sugar Land, Texas, including one that fell onto a home with a “Yard of the Month” sign in its yard.

Image

Image

July 8, 2024, 1:06 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 1:06 p.m. ET

Judson Jones

Meteorologist

Beryl continues to weaken as it moves further inland, with sustained winds of 65 m.p.h., according to the latest update from forecasters. But the storm is still producing damaging hurricane-force wind gusts above 80 m.p.h. in places like Conroe, Texas.

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July 8, 2024, 12:48 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 12:48 p.m. ET

J. David Goodman

Houston bureau chief

Several of Houston’s bayous, which help to drain water from the city during storms, were filled to their banks or, in some cases, had overtopped them, Mayor John Whitmire of Houston said during a news conference. The county’s flood warning system showed several places where the bayous were over capacity, including one near downtown.

July 8, 2024, 12:42 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 12:42 p.m. ET

Judson Jones

Meteorologist

The heaviest rain is finally moving out of Houston, as the storm’s center moves over The Woodlands, a suburb north of the city. The storm will chart a path through east Texas toward Shreveport, La., and Texarkana, Ark.

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July 8, 2024, 12:36 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 12:36 p.m. ET

J. David Goodman

Houston bureau chief

“Stay off the roads. If it’s essential travel, go slow, look out for each other,” Mayor Whitmire said. “This is a dangerous situation, and it will be dangerous for several more hours in terms of severe weather.”

July 8, 2024, 12:22 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 12:22 p.m. ET

J. David Goodman

Houston bureau chief

“We’re experiencing right now the dirty side of a dirty hurricane,” Mayor Whitmire said. “Shelter in place, shelter in place. We’re in an emergency.”

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July 8, 2024, 12:07 p.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 12:07 p.m. ET

J. David Goodman

Houston bureau chief

Officials confirmed a second death caused by the storm: a 74-year-old woman who was killed after a tree fell through the roof of her home in northern Houston, just off Interstate 45, Mark Herman, the constable for the area, said on social media.

Millions Without Power After Beryl Batters Houston (30)

July 8, 2024, 11:55 a.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 11:55 a.m. ET

Shannon Sims

Reporting from Houston

Among all the other sounds from the storm, like driving rain pounding the windows and the thrumming vibration of electricity going on and off, Houston’s toads appear to have a riotous mating call going on right now — something you would normally only hear at night.

Video

transcript

0:00

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0:20

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0:00

transcript

[toads croaking]

Millions Without Power After Beryl Batters Houston (31)

July 8, 2024, 11:38 a.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 11:38 a.m. ET

Austyn Gaffney

Power failures from hurricanes are projected to increase 50 percent in the coming decades.

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More than two million Texans are without power Monday morning, hours after Hurricane Beryl hit the Gulf Coast as a Category 1 storm. The majority of those customers are concentrated along the Gulf Coast and in the Houston area, where significant flooding is expected as the day progresses.

CenterPoint Energy, one of four electricity suppliers for Harris County, which is home to Houston, estimates more than half of their 2.6 million customers in Texas are without power. But residents cannot track outages in their area because the utility’s online map went offline after a storm in May.

In some areas of the United States, the risk of power outage following hurricanes could become 50 percent higher in the coming years because of climate change, according to a new analysis by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Electric Power Research Institute. In Harris County, the average person could expect to see their risk of outages almost double beginning in 2066, according to the study.

In Matagorda County, where Beryl made landfall, approximately 85 percent of customers experienced power outages. American Electric Power Texas, which is one of four power providers to Matagorda County, announced on Sunday that 2,700 company and contract personnel were stationed about 160 miles south of Matagorda County to coordinate a response effort to the storm.

Research shows that climate change, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, is making hurricanes stronger and wetter, while pushing weaker storms in the Atlantic Ocean to intensify to faster.

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July 8, 2024, 11:34 a.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 11:34 a.m. ET

Steve Kenny

Reporting from Galveston, Texas

One of the few places open in Galveston, if not the only place, is Robert's LaFitte bar two blocks from the beach. Scott Butler, left, the owner, says the bar has no electricity, but there’s plenty to drink. LaFitte’s was also one of the first places to open after Hurricane Ike.

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July 8, 2024, 8:41 a.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 8:41 a.m. ET

Judson Jones

Meteorologist

Here’s where Beryl is expected to go next.

Forecast risk of excessive rain for Monday

Risk

Some

Moderate

High

Get notified about extreme weather risks in places you choose »

Source: National Weather ServiceNotes: This map indicates risk in up to three tiers: Some, there is at least some chance of extreme weather in the area; Moderate, it is likely that damaging weather will happen in the area; and High, extreme, dangerous weather is expected in the area. Data is as of [DATETIME] and is not available for Alaska and Hawaii.By The New York Times

After Beryl pounds East Texas with torrential rain and strong winds, it will continue to move across the United States’ eastern half over the next several days.

Monday: Several hours after making landfall in Matagorda, Texas, the storm began weakening. It was expected to drop in wind intensity to become a tropical storm by midday as the center passes near Houston.

The storm is producing flooding rainfall of three to eight inches, with up to 15 inches in some isolated areas. Because of the storm’s compact size, the heaviest rainfall was expected to remain fairly narrow. Where exactly the heaviest rain will fall depends on Beryl’s exact path. The storm should be almost, if not entirely, out of Texas by early Tuesday morning.

Tuesday: As the storm tracks across Arkansas, it most likely will have weakened even further, and it may have become a post-tropical storm by this point. This means it will be more like a typical storm system sweeping across the U.S. this time of the year.

The storm’s plume of tropical moisture could cause flash flooding from Arkansas to Indiana during the day, with two to four inches of rainfall expected and local maximums upward of eight inches possible.

Forecast risk of excessive rain for Tuesday

Risk

Some

Moderate

High

Get notified about extreme weather risks in places you choose »

Source: National Weather ServiceNotes: This map indicates risk in up to three tiers: Some, there is at least some chance of extreme weather in the area; Moderate, it is likely that damaging weather will happen in the area; and High, extreme, dangerous weather is expected in the area. Data is as of [DATETIME] and is not available for Alaska and Hawaii.By The New York Times

Wednesday: The remnants of Beryl will continue across Indiana and bring rain to the region. There is much uncertainty about where the low pressure associated with Beryl will track, but there is a growing signal for a broad area to be impacted by the heavy rains. There is at least some risk of excessive rain from northern Indiana to New Hampshire.

Thursday and beyond: The remnants of Beryl will come together with other weather ingredients and could produce heavy rain and the potential for flash flooding in the Eastern Seaboard late this week.

Showers and storms could linger into the weekend for portions of the East, but forecasters with the Weather Prediction Center said rain amounts do not look as focused or heavy.

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Millions Without Power After Beryl Batters Houston (2024)

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