Frustrations mount as Beryl moves on, leaves millions powerless; federal disaster aid approved

More than 2.3 million customers in the Houston area are still believed to be without power on Tuesday

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Many of the millions left without power after Hurricane Beryl crashed into Texas, killing several people and unleashing flooding, sweltered and grumbled Tuesday as the storm deprived much of the nation's fourth-largest city of air conditioning, food and water in sweltering heat and humidity.

Acting Gov. Dan Patrick, who is acting as governor while Gov. Greg Abbott, who is out of the country, said Tuesday that President Biden has approved a federal disaster emergency declaration.

“I have just spoken with President Biden. I have requested a federal emergency disaster declaration through FEMA to cover all costs for Category A (Debris) and Category B (Emergency Protective Measures). FEMA’s assistance with these costs will expedite the recovery process and help ensure the safety of Texans impacted by Hurricane Beryl. The president granted my request.”

A heat advisory took effect through Wednesday in the Houston area and beyond, with temperatures expected to soar into the 90s and humidity that could make it feel as hot as 105 degrees.

“We can handle it, but not the kids,” said Walter Perez, 49, as he arrived early Tuesday at celebrity pastor Joel Osteen's megachurch in Houston, which served as a cooling center and distributed 40-bottle packs of water to cars that drove up.

Perez said he, his wife, their 3-year-old son and 3-week-old daughter, and his father-in-law retreated from their apartment after a night he described as “bad, bad, bad, bad."

Drone video shot on Monday shows water flooding the city of Houston after the deadly Tropical Storm Beryl ripped through southeast Texas.

Beryl, a Category 1 hurricane that made landfall early Monday, has been blamed for at least seven U.S. deaths—one in Louisiana and six in Texas—and at least 11 in the Caribbean. At midday Tuesday, it was a post-tropical cyclone centered over Arkansas and forecast to bring heavy rains and possible flooding to a swath extending to the Great Lakes and Canada.

According to, more than 2 million homes and businesses around Houston lacked electricity on Tuesday, down from a peak of over 2.7 million on Monday. For many, it was a miserable repeat after storms in May killed eight people and left nearly 1 million without power amid flooded streets.

Food spoiled in listless refrigerators in neighborhoods that pined for air conditioning. Long lines of cars and people queued up at any fast food restaurant, food truck or gas station that had power and was open. And frustration mounted that Houston appeared to buckle under a storm not as powerful as previous ones.

Patrons lined up on one block to eat at KFC, Jack in the Box or Denny’s — or just to get a few minutes in some cooler air. Dwight Yell, 54, had power at his house but took a disabled neighbor, who did not, to Denny’s for some food.

He complained that city and state officials did not alert residents well enough to a storm initially projected to land much farther down the coast: “They didn’t give us enough warning, where maybe we could go get gas or prepare to go out of town if the lights go out."

Robin Taylor, who got takeout from Denny’s, was tired of the same old struggle. She had been living in a hotel since the storms in May damaged her home. When Beryl hit, her hotel room flooded.

She was angry that Houston didn’t appear prepared to handle the Category 1 storm after it had weathered much stronger ones in the past.

“No WiFi, no power, and it’s hot outside. That’s dangerous for people. That’s really the big issue,” Taylor said. “People will die in this heat in their homes.”

At a news conference with other officials, Nim Kidd, head of the state’s division of emergency management, said restoring power is the No. 1 priority. And in Washington, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration. She said that emergency crews hope to have power restored to an additional 1 million people by the end of the day.

It could take days to fully restore power in Texas after Beryl toppled 10 transmission lines. According to Patrick, the top priorities for power restoration include nursing homes and assisted living centers. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 16 hospitals were running on generator power Tuesday morning.

Patrick urged utilities to restore power “as quickly as they can.”

Beryl's strength at midday Tuesday—with sustained winds near 30 mph —wasn't expected to change much in the next two days. The National Weather Service forecast heavy rains and possible flash flooding from the lower and mid-Mississippi Valley to the Great Lakes into Wednesday.

A flood watch was in effect for parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. Forecasters said a few tornadoes were possible in Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.

When Beryl made landfall, it was far less powerful than the Category 5 behemoth that tore a deadly path through parts of Mexico and the Caribbean. But its winds and rains still knocked down hundreds of trees already teetering in saturated earth and stranded dozens of cars on flooded roads.

Beryl was the earliest storm to develop into a Category 5 in the Atlantic. Officials said in Jamaica that island residents will have to contend with food shortages after Beryl destroyed over $6.4 million in crops and supporting infrastructure.

Contributing to this report were Associated Press journalists Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas; Sara Cline in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Jeff Martin in Atlanta; and Sarah Brumfield in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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