Houston Faces Major Power Outage in Hurricane Beryl’s Aftermath

Houston Faces Major Power Outage in Hurricane Beryl's Aftermath

Houston residents are enduring record heat and widespread power outages following Hurricane Beryl, which left 2.7 million customers without electricity across the state, primarily in the Houston area. CenterPoint Energy, the city’s utility provider, has promised to restore power to one million customers by the end of Wednesday, but vast areas of the city remain without power.

The storm, which made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane, inflicted significant damage by toppling trees and knocking over ten transmission towers. By late Tuesday, 1.5 million CenterPoint customers still lacked electricity, prompting frustration and anger among residents.

Patricia Alexander, a 79-year-old resident in a cooling center, criticized the slow response, particularly for senior centers. “The mayor said he was looking out for senior centers and that CenterPoint’s teams were prioritizing senior facilities, but I don’t believe it, because we don’t have air-conditioning,” she said.

Experts question whether adequate preparations were made for such storms. Wei Due, an energy expert with PA Consulting, highlighted the need for increased resiliency investments. “For a Category 1 hurricane to result in over a million customer outages demonstrates that there is plenty of need for the resiliency hardening investments,” Due said.

CenterPoint Energy acknowledged the unexpected intensity of the storm. Spokeswoman Lynnae Wilson noted that “many of the outages occurred after trees fell on power lines.” The utility has faced scrutiny for its preparedness, especially after previous storms like Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick emphasized the need for accountability, stating, “If they made mistakes beforehand, then that will be addressed. The real question is: Were they as prepared as they should be?”

The utility’s past reports to federal regulators have cited risks related to aging infrastructure. CenterPoint’s $2.19 billion resiliency plan, proposed in April, aims to modernize and harden the infrastructure, including upgrading poles and evaluating the potential of utility-scale microgrids. However, the plan still requires state approval and will span from 2025 to 2027.

Climate experts, like Karthik Balaguru from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, warn that Houston may see more frequent outages due to increasing greenhouse gas emissions leading to heavier rains and flooding. “I think Houston is an area that we should expect more outages,” Balaguru said.

The recent outage follows another in May, when powerful thunderstorms also knocked out power across the city. Residents like Cleveland James, who lost power for five days during that storm, are bracing for prolonged outages. “This is a double whammy,” he said, expressing little hope for a quick resolution.

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