As officials with CenterPoint Energy work to restore power to the Greater Houston area—with outages down from 2.2 million in the region late July 8 to around 1.58 million the afternoon of July 9—leaders in Houston and Harris County said restoring power is the top priority moving forward.

In a July 9 news conference alongside acting Gov. Dan Patrick, Houston Mayor John Whitmire said he received a commitment from CenterPoint Energy that power will be restored to at least 1 million more users by 4 p.m. July 10.

"We are holding CenterPoint accountable," Whitmire said.

The latest

Although Patrick said the current focus is on getting power restored as quickly as possible, officials will review the event later on to determine ways the response could've been handled better and crews could've been more prepared.


Brad Tutunjian, CenterPoint's vice president of distribution operations and service delivery, said CenterPoint secured mutual assistance arrangements with 10,000 workers prior to the storm and added an additional 2,000 more after the fact. However, he said it takes additional time to have them ready to work in the field due to training and an assessment period that takes place after the storm hits. Around 7,500 workers were in the field as of the afternoon of July 9, with another 2,500 expected to be deployed before the end of the day July 9 and 2,000 more deployed July 10.

One of the first steps once crews are in the field is a complete assessment of tens of thousands of circuit miles in Houston. About 1,300 circuits were out, Tutunjian said.

"We can tell you exactly what circuits are out; we can tell you exactly how many customers are out. But we can't tell you the extent of the damage of that particular circuit until we actually walk the ground," he said. "We have hundreds of field assessors trying to get that information as quickly and effectively as possible."

Heading into the evening July 9, Whitmire said traffic lights remain down across the city, urging people to avoid nonessential travel after dark.
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Officials at the Harris County-run Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital have been unable to send some patients home because patients do not have power at their homes, Patrick said. Plans are in place to send an additional 25 ambulances for LBJ Hospital to use as backup, and officials also plan to open a 250-bed facility at NRG Stadium so patients without power can be moved out of the hospital, freeing up more beds for new patients, Patrick said.

In a separate July 9 news conference, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said NRG Stadium took some damage during the storm, including having some parts of the roof blown off.

CenterPoint officials declined to give a specific timeline for when power will be fully restored to the region, adding that they do not break down restoration efforts by neighborhood or street, instead focusing on when power will be fully restored across the system.

Digging in


In terms of debris, Patrick said the debris caused by Beryl exceeds the estimated 1.8 million cubic yards of debris generated by the May 16 derecho storm. U.S. President Joe Biden approved a disaster declaration for Texas on July 9 that Patrick said will cover 75% of the cost for debris cleanup.

Mark Wilfalk, the director of Houston's Solid Waste Management Department, said the city was not able to complete all of its scheduled routes July 9, but he still expects all scheduled routes to be completed before the end of the week.

What readers should know

Officials have continued to call on residents to not call 911 for downed power lines or power outage issues, which should instead be reported to CenterPoint at 713-207-2222. Residents are asked to report damage assessments online at damage.tdem.texas.gov, which state officials said was the first step to getting federal assistance for damage repairs.


Numbers to note

At the July 9 news conference, acting Houston Police Chief Larry Satterwhite said HPD has conducted 56 water rescues since Beryl hit. The department has gone into "full mobilization"—with half of staffed offices working day shifts and the other half working night shifts—until power is restored to more of the city, including street lights and traffic lights.

Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña said call volumes to the fire department have been up roughly 50% since the storm hit, including calls for broken gas lines, downed power lines, heat emergencies, other medical issues and around 100 calls for carbon monoxide poisoning.

State ambulance strike teams are being brought in until call volumes recede to supplement HFD's operations, Peña said.


Also of note

Whitmire expressed frustration at the July 9 news conference with the number of city facilities that lost power and did not have functioning generators, including at nine city fire stations.

"As we do an assessment after this storm, generation will be a major topic," he said. "I cannot imagine in Houston, Texas ... to try to operate a fire station without a backup generator. That will not be allowed going forward. It's just outrageous."