Frustration grows in Houston heat after Beryl moves on, leaving millions without power

HOUSTON – The return of scorching heat to Houston on Tuesday deepened the plight of the millions of people still without power after Hurricane Beryl made landfall in Texas, leaving residents in one of the nation’s largest cities looking for places to cool off and recharge.

Frustration grew that Houston appeared to be suffering from a storm that was less severe than previous ones. State officials were asked if Houston’s power company was adequately prepared. One of them said he would reserve judgment until the lights were back on.

Hospitals also felt the pinch: Nearly 36 hours after Beryl made landfall, Texas’s lieutenant governor announced that a sports and events complex would be temporarily used to house up to 250 patients awaiting discharge but unable to be discharged to homes without power.

APTOPIX Tropical weather in Texas

Lakewood Church staff distribute water and operate a cooling station in Houston on Tuesday. Hurricane Beryl has knocked out power in most of the region.

Eric Gay, Associated Press

People coped as best they could.

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“We can handle it, but the kids can’t,” said Walter Perez, 49, as he arrived early Tuesday at star pastor Joel Osteen’s megachurch in Houston, which was serving as a cold storage facility and distributing 40-packs of water.

Perez said his family – including his wife, a three-year-old son, a three-week-old daughter and his father-in-law – left their apartment after what he described as a “bad, bad, bad, bad, bad” night.

Highs in the Houston area rose above 80 degrees again on Tuesday, and humidity could make it feel even hotter. The National Weather Service described conditions as potentially dangerous because there was no power or air conditioning.

Beryl, which made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane early Monday, is blamed for at least seven deaths in the United States – one in Louisiana and six in Texas – and at least 11 in the Caribbean.

Tropical weather in Texas

People fill gasoline cans on Tuesday, a day after Hurricane Beryl made landfall near Freeport, Texas.

Jon Shapley, Houston Chronicle

Nearly 2 million Houston homes and businesses were still without power on Tuesday, down from a peak of more than 2.7 million on Monday, according to For many, it was a sad repeat after storms in May left eight people dead and nearly 1 million people without power in flooded streets.

In neighborhoods that yearned for air conditioning, food spoiled in sluggish refrigerators. Long lines of cars and people formed outside every fast-food restaurant, food truck or gas station that had power and was open.

Guests lined up for a block to eat at KFC, Jack in the Box or Denny’s – or just to spend a few minutes in the cooler air.

Dwight Yell, 54, had power in his home but took a disabled neighbor who didn’t have power to Denny’s to get some food.

He lamented that city and state officials failed to warn residents in time about a storm that was originally expected to make landfall much further down the coast. “They didn’t give us enough warning where we might be able to get gas or prepare to leave town if the lights went out,” he said.

Tropical weather in Texas

Traffic is diverted around a downed power line in Houston on Tuesday.

Eric Gay, Associated Press

Robin Taylor, who was getting takeout from Denny’s, was fed up with the same old struggle. She has been living in a hotel since her house was damaged by the storms in May. When Beryl struck, her hotel room flooded.

She was angry that Houston was apparently unprepared for the Category 1 storm, having weathered much stronger storms in the past.

“No Wi-Fi, no electricity and it’s hot outside. That’s dangerous for people. That’s really the big problem,” Taylor said. “People are going to die in their homes in this heat.”

Nim Kidd, head of the state’s emergency management agency, stressed that restoring power was the top priority. CenterPoint Energy in Houston said it hoped to restore power to one million customers by the end of Wednesday.

Tropical weather in Texas

People line up to buy gasoline on Tuesday, a day after Hurricane Beryl made landfall near Freeport, Texas.

Jon Shapley, Houston Chronicle

For others, however, it may take several days or longer for lighting to be restored.

Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who is serving as acting governor while Governor 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 were equipped with generators as of Tuesday morning.

Patrick urged utilities to quickly restore power and said he would later assess whether they had done enough before the storm.

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 comes through at 3 p.m., the crews 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 crews,” Brad Tutunjian, vice president of regulatory policy at CenterPoint Energy, said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Tropical weather in Texas

Laura and Jose Galvan search through perishable food left outside a Kroger store in Houston on Tuesday due to power outages caused by Hurricane Beryl.

Raquel Natalicchio, Houston Chronicle

Kyuta Allen took her family to a Houston community center to cool off and use the internet for work and the night classes she takes online.

“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.

Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry declared a state of emergency for parts of the state on Tuesday afternoon after trees were downed, homes were damaged and thousands of people were left without power.

Beryl was the first storm in the Atlantic to develop into a Category 5 storm. In Jamaica, officials said Monday that islanders will face food shortages after the storm destroyed more than $6.4 million worth of crops and infrastructure.