Legislature to evaluate response to Beryl as millions still without power

(The Center Square) – Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the legislature would perform a post-analysis of the response to Hurricane Beryl, including investigating the efforts of the largest energy provider in the Houston region, as millions remain without power.

Patrick is taking on the role of acting governor while Gov. Greg Abbott is in Asia on an economic development tour.

At a news conference in Galveston County, Patrick discussed the devastation caused by the Category 1 hurricane, including seven people now confirmed dead.

He also addressed the millions of Texans struggling without power as temperatures surpass 100 degrees.

“It’s tough to be in the heat. It’s tough not to be able to get food. It’s tough not to be able to cook it,” he said.

Reporters asked Patrick if he was happy with the efforts to restore power by CenterPoint, the largest energy utility provider in the Houston region.

“CenterPoint will have to answer for themselves if they were prepared and positioned,” he said. “The state was positioned and prepared. I’ll tell you whether I’m satisfied or not when I have a full report of where their crews were when they were asked to come in, and how quickly they get power back.

“Any thought that people were surprised that the storm might come to Houston is shocking to me. I still have my text that I sent on the Fourth of July when the track was Mexico and the Rio Grande. In my text, I said ‘I’m not comfortable with this track, I’m not comfortable with this storm.'”

Patrick said he signed multiple waivers to allow crews to come into Houston faster and the state had crews available in San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and Houston.

In response to additional questions, he said, “If they made mistakes, we don’t know if they did or not, if they made mistakes beforehand, then that will be addressed by the PUC [Public Utility Commission of Texas], that’s their job, and by the state legislature.”

Unlike in previous hurricanes, CenterPoint reportedly didn’t have additional workers stationed in Houston before Beryl made landfall.

On Tuesday, the immediate focus was getting power back up as soon as possible, Patrick said. “I’m not looking at what they didn’t do, or should have done on Thursday or Friday or Saturday, I’m looking at what they’re going to do now and how fast are they going to get their crews out. Because now we’re in the lifesaving business.”

“Heat index values are expected to get as high as around 106 degrees, and these values could become dangerous in the aftermath of Hurricane Beryl,” the National Weather Service’s Houston forecast office said.

A CenterPoint spokesperson told KHOU 11 News as the storm hit that while it didn’t have the crews it requested “staged in Houston, we did have them in nearby locations.”

KHOU 11 News notes that in “separate news conferences and in writing, the company gave three conflicting numbers – 5,300 mutual aid workers, 7,500 and the full 12,000 it requested.”

CenterPoint officials gave additional numbers, according to an analysis by The Center Square. On Sunday, CenterPoint’s attorney said it had “started the process to bring in 2,500 additional personnel, taking our total employee and contractor force up to 4,500 to respond to this storm. Our assessment work will start as soon as the storm passes, and we will immediately get to work.”

Also on Sunday, a spokesperson said there were 2,500 mutual assistance crews on standby. “After the assessment phase if we determine more, we will get more crews,” he said, noting that more than 4,000 crews responded to the last flooding event in May.

On Monday, CenterPoint issued a statement saying, “In the first afternoon since the powerful and destructive Hurricane Beryl moved out of its service territory, CenterPoint Energy had mobilized its internal and mutual assistance crews to begin the restoration process to the total 2.265 million customers that lost power during the storm. As of 8 p.m. CT, CenterPoint has restored power to nearly 285,000 customers. Based on current progress with its damage assessment and initial restoration, CenterPoint now expects to have 1 million impacted customers restored by the end of the day on Wednesday, July 10.”

“While we tracked the projected path, intensity and timing for Hurricane Beryl closely for many days, this storm proved the unpredictability of hurricanes as it delivered a powerful blow across our service territory and impacted a lot of lives,” Lynnae Wilson, senior vice president of CenterPoint Energy, said.

CenterPoint has published a color coded outage and restoration map resource for the Houston area. It also listed how many customers are without power by county, with the majority in Harris County of more than 1.2 million as of Tuesday afternoon.

As of Wednesday morning, CenterPoint said more than 1.3 million customers are affected by a power outage in multiple counties and there are 11,228 active outages. Within the last 24 hours, it says power was restored to more than 617,000 customers and 638 outages were restored.