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Houston residents stew and sweat after Storm Beryl leaves millions without power

AP

HOUSTON (AP) — The return of scorching heat to the Houston area has compounded the plight of people still without power after Hurricane Beryl. Residents are searching for places to cool off and recharge as ongoing outages strain one of the nation’s largest cities.

More than 1.7 million homes and businesses in Texas were without power as of Wednesday morning, according to PowerOutage.us. That number was up from more than 2.7 million on Monday. State officials were asked whether the power company, which covers much of the area, was adequately prepared.

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said a sports and events complex would be used temporarily to house up to 250 hospital patients who are awaiting discharge but cannot be released to homes without power.

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Beryl, which made landfall in Texas early Monday as a Category 1 hurricane, is blamed for at least seven deaths in the U.S. — one in Louisiana and six in Texas — and at least 11 in the Caribbean. It weakened as it moved deeper into the U.S. and developed into a post-tropical cyclone centered over northeast Indiana early Wednesday.

A flood warning was issued for parts of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The storm probably spawned tornadoes in parts of Indiana and Kentucky.

In the Houston area, the Beryl storm exacerbated and repeated the disaster of May, when eight people died in storms and nearly a million people were without power.

Highs on Tuesday climbed to over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and humidity made it feel even hotter. Similar heat and humidity were expected on Wednesday. The National Weather Service described conditions as potentially dangerous because there was no electricity or air conditioning.

People coped as best they could. Kyuta Allen went to a community center in Houston with her family to cool off and use the internet.

“During the day you can leave the doors open, but at night you have to nail them shut and lock them – locking yourself in like a sauna,” she said.

An executive at CenterPoint Energy, which covers much of the Houston area, defended the utility’s preparation and response.

“From my perspective, it’s pretty impressive that a storm can come through at 3 p.m., the teams arrive late in the evening, and by 5 a.m. everything is ready to go out and send the workers out, because we’re talking about thousands of teams,” said Brad Tutunjian, vice president of regulatory policy.

Nim Kidd, head of the state’s disaster management department, stressed that restoring power was the top priority.

Patrick, who is serving as governor while Gov. Greg Abbott is overseas, said nursing homes and assisted living facilities are the highest priority. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 16 hospitals had to run on generators as of Tuesday morning.

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