Miserable heat threatens millions of Texans without power after Storm Beryl


Southeast Texas is being battered by life-threatening heat. Nearly 2 million homes and businesses are still without power and air conditioning after deadly and devastating Storm Beryl.

It is expected to take days – and in some cases weeks – for electricity to be restored to the region after Beryl ripped through the state on Monday, flooding coastal communities, destroying homes and downing a network of power lines.

Homes have become saunas and food is rotting in warm refrigerators as about 1.7 million homes and businesses remain without power in southeast Texas, mostly from Galveston to north of Houston, according to PowerOutage.us. Phone and internet access have also been cut off in some communities, including Galveston.

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

Beryl has been blamed for at least 10 deaths in Texas and Louisiana, mostly from fallen trees. But two deaths in Houston’s Harris County were from carbon monoxide poisoning, Texas emergency officials said, prompting warnings about the dangers of running generators in areas where families live and sleep.

Cooling centers have opened across the region as temperatures climb into the 90s and heat indexes in some areas reach 105 degrees. The heat index — a measure of how the body feels in both heat and humidity — will reach triple digits for some for the second day in a row.

Long-term heat exposure poses significant health risks for people without adequate cooling, and can be especially dangerous for Texans who work outdoors to clean up debris or damaged infrastructure. Heat also poses increased risks for the elderly, people with chronic medical conditions, the homeless and children.

Houston hospitals are at risk of overcrowding because they can’t transport patients to homes without power, so city officials have arranged for extra beds at a sports stadium, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Tuesday.

Long lines of cars and residents snaked away from fast food restaurants, food trucks and gas stations hoping to get a few minutes of cool air or a bite to eat, AP reported. Dwight Yell, 54, had power at his home but took a disabled neighbor, who did not, to Denny’s for food, the outlet reported.

Patrick said he has stressed to CenterPoint Energy, the utility with the vast majority of the area’s outages, the importance of restoring power as quickly as possible. The utility estimates that about 80% of its Houston customers are without power.

“It’s tough being in the heat. It’s tough not being able to refrigerate anything and it’s tough not being able to go outside to get food,” Patrick said. “I made sure CenterPoint knew about this and asked them to do everything they could to get power back on as soon as possible.”

But CenterPoint officials say it could be days before power is fully restored to its customers, though it hopes to restore service to 1 million customers by Wednesday evening. More than 1.3 million of its customers were still in the dark Wednesday morning.

President Joe Biden has declared a federal emergency that will help with some recovery costs, including cleaning up debris, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office said.

But before long-term recovery efforts begin, many frustrated residents are struggling with how to meet their immediate needs.

“It’s catastrophic when you lose everything in your refrigerator and you’re living paycheck to paycheck,” Harris County Commissioner Lesley Briones told the AP.

Mark Felix/AFP/Getty Images

On July 8, a home in Surfside Beach, Texas, was destroyed by Hurricane Beryl.

Although Beryl has weakened significantly since the Category 1 hurricane hit Texas, its remnants still pose a serious threat of flooding and tornadoes as it moves through the Ohio Valley and the northeastern U.S. on Wednesday.

“On Wednesday, Beryl will move northeast through Ohio and Ontario, increasing rainfall across northern New York into New England,” the National Weather Service said.

More than 20 million people are under flood warnings across parts of the Midwest and Northeast. The warnings begin to expire late Wednesday in the Midwest, but will last into Thursday morning in New England.

Heavy rain and tornadoes are possible in the Northeast, with the greatest tornado threat extending from northern Pennsylvania to southern New Hampshire and Vermont. That includes Syracuse and Albany, New York, and Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Beryl produced more than a dozen tornadoes in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana on Monday, and two each in Indiana and Kentucky on Tuesday. The National Weather Service in Shreveport, Louisiana, issued 67 tornado warnings on Monday, the most ever in a single day.

More than 130 million Americans are under heat warnings on both coasts, but the heat is still hitting the West hardest, where communities have been battling extremely high temperatures for at least two weeks.

The extremely dangerous heat has already caused several deaths in the west and will continue in the region until Friday. In some areas, temperatures will rise well above 38 degrees Celsius, while in some places temperatures will be 10 to 30 degrees above average.

In Death Valley, California, temperatures have exceeded 125 degrees Fahrenheit every day since July 4. This streak is expected to continue through Friday. This makes it the second-longest streak of temperatures above 125 degrees Fahrenheit, after 10 days in July 1913. In Nevada, Las Vegas reached 117 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday, marking the fourth consecutive day that it has broken a daily record for high temperatures.

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“The prolonged, multi-day duration and record high nighttime temperatures will continue to create heat stress for anyone who does not get adequate cooling and hydration,” the National Weather Service warned.

Human-induced climate change is causing much more frequent and intense heat waves around the world, exposing communities to increasingly dangerous temperatures. When a person cannot cool their body during prolonged heat, they are at risk of damage to their brain and other vital organs, as well as other heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and stroke.

The NWS Houston advises residents to limit outdoor activities, work early or late in the day, wear light clothing and sunscreen, and be aware of loved ones, neighbors and pets.

CNN’s Robert Shackelford, Joe Sutton, Sarah Dewberry and Fabiana Chaparro contributed to this report.

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