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Millions still have no power days after Beryl struck Texas. Here’s how it happened

DALLAS — It could take days or longer for power to be fully restored to the Houston area. Hurricane Beryl hit Texasleaving millions of residents in the dark and without air conditioning in the scorching summer heat.

The slow pace of power restoration in America’s fourth-largest city is raising growing questions about whether CenterPoint Energy, Houston’s utility, was prepared enough for the storm and worked quickly enough to get electricity back on.

Some Houstonians, all too familiar with ongoing natural disasters, have also wondered why one of the Gulf Coast’s largest cities seemed to wither under Beryl and wasn’t better able to withstand a Category 1 hurricane.

This is what you need to know:

Beryl was no longer a Category 5 giant when it hit the U.S. before sunrise Monday. It made landfall as a weakened hurricane with sustained winds of 80 mph (128 kpm) after already carving a deadly path of destruction through parts of Mexico And the Caribbean.

In the Houston area, Beryl knocked down power lines, uprooted trees and snapped branches that landed on power lines. As of Wednesday afternoon — nearly 60 hours after landfall — about 1.3 million homes and businesses were still without power, according to CenterPoint Energy. The utility said it had restored electricity to nearly 1 million customers who lost power during Beryl.

The typically sultry summer heat along the Texas coast has heightened the urgency of restoring power. Temperatures on Wednesday soared above 90 degrees (above 90 degrees Fahrenheit), prompting the city to open cooling centers for residents without air conditioning.

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CenterPoint Energy defended its preparations for the storm, saying it had brought in nearly 12,000 additional workers from outside Houston since the storm to help speed power restoration.

When Houston city council members raised sometimes pointed questions Wednesday about the utility’s handling of the storm, Brad Tutunjian, vice president of regulatory policy for CenterPoint Energy, said it would not have been safe to send in outside crews to “ride out” the storm.

According to him, the extensive damage to trees and electricity pylons is hindering the rapid restoration of the power supply.

“There is all the time needed to carry out restoration work,” he said.

Rural communities in Beryl’s path are also struggling to get power restored quickly. In the coastal town of Matagorda County, where Beryl made landfall, officials said it could take up to two weeks to restore power to about 2,500 customers in the hard-hit community of Sargent, where homes were destroyed and badly damaged.

Beryl is just the latest natural disaster to wreak havoc on the Houston area’s power grid. In May, a powerful storm which tore through the area with strong winds, leaving nearly 1 million people without power.

Houston was also hit hard in 2021 when Texas’ power grid failed during a deadly winter storm that brought extremely low temperatures, snow and ice. Millions of Texans were left without power during that storm and had to endure it in cold houses or flee.

In 2008, Hurricane Ike made landfall on Galveston Island as a Category 2 hurricane with 110 mph (177 kph) sustained winds, causing flooding and wind damage in the Houston area. About 2.2 million CenterPoint customers were left without power after the storm, according to the Harris County Flood Control District, which said 75% of power had been restored by day 10.

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Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is the face of the state’s response, while Gov. Greg Abbott is on an economic development visit to Asia, traveling to Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

Abbott left Texas on Friday with a delegation that included other lawmakers, state officials and civic leaders. On Tuesday, Abbott posted on social media that he has remained in contact with emergency management officials and Patrick, who is serving as acting governor while Abbott is away on the trip.

“We will remain involved until all Texas residents have recovered,” he wrote.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas was criticized in 2021 for travel to Cancun as his state battled a deadly freeze. Cruz has traveled up and down the coast this week, joining state officials in visiting hard-hit communities. On Tuesday, Cruz said he slept on a friend’s couch after his own home in Houston lost power.

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