Major City in Texas Faces Power Crisis Amid Warnings

By: Sam Watanuki | Published: May 20, 2024

Deadly storms recently hit Houston, leaving seven people dead and causing widespread destruction. Thunderstorms and hurricane-force winds decimated buildings, uprooted trees, and shattered glass.

A tornado touched down in Cypress, a northwest Houston suburb, further compounding the damage. The storms caught many residents by surprise, highlighting the intensity and unpredictability of such weather events.

Widespread Power Outages

More than half a million homes and businesses in Texas were without power as of midday Saturday, according to PowerOutage.us. In Louisiana, strong winds and a suspected tornado left 21,000 customers without electricity.

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A close up view of a black electricity tower with several black wires running through

Source: Alexander Schimmeck/Unsplash

The widespread power outages are a significant challenge for residents and businesses alike, creating a critical need for prompt restoration efforts and support.

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Heatwave Adds to Struggles

The National Weather Service predicts temperatures around 90°F through the start of the week, with heat indexes possibly reaching 100°F by midweek.

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Thermometer showing high temperatures with the sun in the background

Source: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

“We expect the impact of the heat to gradually increase,” said meteorologist Marc Chenard. The rising temperatures will make cleanup efforts more strenuous and increase the risk of heat-related illnesses among residents.

Health Risks from Heat and Smog

The heat index, combining temperature and humidity, will make it feel even hotter. The Houston Health Department is distributing 400 free portable air conditioners to seniors and people with disabilities to help mitigate health risks.

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An orange sky showing electric towers and smoke rising

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Poor air quality is also expected to continue, adding another layer of difficulty for those working to recover from the storm’s aftermath.

Cooling Centers Provide Relief

To help residents cope with the heat, five cooling centers have been opened — four in Houston and one in Kingwood. These centers offer a place to cool down and avoid heat-related illnesses.

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A thermometer reads a very hot temperature in the sand on a beach

Source: Freepik

Residents are advised to avoid overexertion during cleanup efforts. “Don’t overdo yourself during the cleanup process,” warned the weather service’s Houston office on social media platform X.

Power Restoration Efforts

CenterPoint Energy has deployed 1,000 employees to restore power and requested 5,000 more. The company warns that power restoration could take several days or longer.

A close-up image of a black electrical plug with two flat prongs, held near a white electrical outlet set against a tiled wall

Source: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

Customers must ensure their homes are safe for reconnection by having any necessary repairs done by qualified electricians. Severe weather may have damaged customer-owned equipment, complicating the restoration process.

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Rare Dual System Damage

The storm caused damage to both transmission and distribution systems, which is rare. This dual impact complicates repair efforts and prolongs the restoration process.

The scene captures a power plant at dusk, with a large tower looming. In the foreground is a railway crossing

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Alexandria von Meier, a power and energy expert, explained that simultaneous damage to both systems presents a significant challenge, requiring more resources and time to fully restore power to affected areas.

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Tragic Losses and Community Resilience

The storm’s severity led to tragic deaths, including an 85-year-old woman whose home was struck by lightning and a 60-year-old man who tried to power his oxygen tank with his vehicle.

Houston Mayor John Whitmire stands with a group of first responders at a press conference following destruction

Source: @HCPrecinct4/X

Houston Mayor John Whitmire reported four additional deaths in the city. Despite these losses, the community remains resilient, with residents supporting each other through the recovery process.

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School Closures and Uncertain Reopening

Houston area schools canceled classes for more than 400,000 students on Friday. Houston Independent School District Superintendent Mike Miles hopes to reopen schools on Monday, but this depends on electricity restoration.

A hand-written sign on a glass door reading 'SORRY WE ARE NOW CLOSED' in bold, black letters on a yellow background, taped up with four pieces of duct tape

Source: Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

Damaged school buildings like Sinclair Elementary will remain closed if power is not restored, affecting the education of thousands of students.

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Preventing Looting and Ensuring Safety

Police and state troopers are patrolling affected areas to prevent looting. Houston Mayor John Whitmire emphasized the importance of maintaining order and safety during the recovery process.

A close-up look at the lights of a police officer’s car seen in the evening.

Source: Michael Förtsch/Unsplash

Residents are urged to support each other and stay vigilant. The strong law enforcement presence aims to protect property and ensure community safety during this challenging time.

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Animal Rescue Amidst Chaos

Houston Pets Alive found their facility damaged but their animals safe. The building’s awning was ripped off, the sign mangled, and water leaked inside.

Houston Pets Alive aftermath of storm

Source: Houston Pets Alive/Facebook

Despite these challenges, the organization is working to find foster homes for the rescued animals, along with organizing a food drive “for people who need essential supplies for their animals.”

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Federal and State Recovery Aid

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Mayor Whitmire signed disaster declarations to facilitate recovery assistance.

President Joe Biden standing at a podium in the Oval Office, with the Presidential Seal and a portrait in the background

Source: POTUS/X

President Joe Biden’s disaster declaration makes federal funding available to seven Texas counties, including Harris, affected by severe storms, winds, tornadoes, and flooding since April 26. These declarations aim to provide much-needed support to help communities rebuild and recover.

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