Fierce storms leave 140,000 Texans without power for days

  • By Bernd Debusmann Jr.
  • BBC News

Image source, Getty Images

Legend, Buildings in the Houston area were severely damaged by high hurricane winds during the storms.

More than 140,000 people remain on power in Texas, days after severe thunderstorms and a series of tornadoes swept through the state.

At least eight people were killed in the storms, which also hit the neighboring states of Louisiana and Mississippi late last week.

In Houston, persistent outages left many people without air conditioning due to stifling heat and humidity.

In some areas, it may take days or weeks before power is fully restored.

Hurricane-force winds were recorded during the May 16 combination of storms known as the derecho, blowing glass off high-rise buildings and toppling trees, cranes and power lines. Nearly a million people were without electricity this weekend.

At around 10:00 a.m. local time (4:00 p.m. BST) on Tuesday morning, around 146,000 people were still without power, according to Almost all, about 139,000 people, were in Harris County, which includes the major city of Houston.

At the same time, temperatures in the area are expected to reach 91F (32C), with humidity levels around 80% making it feel much hotter, and are expected to reach 95F by Monday.

Even days after the storm, the apartment where Alexis McCartney, a remote employee at a technology company, lives, remains without power. Working from home is “fundamentally impossible”, she told the BBC.

“It’s been a huge and inconvenient experience to say the least,” she said. “We’re in the height of the Texas summer…it’s easy to sweat.”

Ms. McCartney fears the massive outages are a sign of things to come as the Houston area heads into hurricane season, which runs from June to November.

“I am concerned about the power grid and how this city’s infrastructure can leave thousands of Houstonians without power for extended periods of time,” she added. “It’s like a slap in the face.”

Video caption, Watch: Windows broken in high-rise buildings after deadly Texas storm

“Significant damage to trees” and vegetation is complicating efforts to restore power, the Houston area’s main utility company, CenterPoint Energy, said in a statement Monday evening. She added that about 85% of her customers’ power had been restored.

The company posted photos online showing downed trees and broken fences, as well as power lines laid precariously along the sides of homes.

“We understand how difficult this has been for our customers going five days without power,” Lynnae Wilson, CenterPoint Energy’s senior vice president of power, said in the release. “We won’t stop until the job is done.”

However, some customers will have to wait a long time.

Harris County Judge-Executive Lina Hidalgo told Fox Weather that some residents served by downed transmission lines may “have to go a few weeks, most likely, without power.”

On Monday, Houston authorities announced that a man in his 60s had died of carbon monoxide poisoning – likely from a generator – bringing the total number of storm-related deaths to at least eight.

Other deaths include several people killed by power lines or falling cranes and trees, including a 31-year-old mother of four who died after a large tree fell on her car in Houston.

More than four dozen “cooling centers,” where people can also charge their phones and find food and water, have been opened across the city, according to the Houston Chronicle.

“I’m still without power,” Alejandro Sanchez, a Mexican national living in Harris County, told the BBC in Spanish. “But things could have been a lot worse. I’m very grateful.”

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