Power expected to be restored to most affected by deadly Houston storm

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HOUSTON (AP) — Houston area residents affected by deadly storms last week that left at least seven dead were finally getting some good news as officials said they expected power to be restored by Sunday evening to a majority of the hundreds of thousands still in the dark and without air conditioning amid hot and humid weather.

Help was also on the way in the form of disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and loans from the Small Business Administration, said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the top elected official in the county where Houston is located. The federal assistance, which can help pay for temporary housing and repairs, will help residents affected by last week’s storms as well as by flooding from heavy rainfall in late April and early May in parts of Houston, Harris County and several counties north of Houston.

The widespread destruction of Thursday’s storms brought much of Houston to a standstill. Thunderstorms and hurricane-force winds tore through the city — reducing businesses and other structures to piles of debris, uprooting trees and shattering glass from downtown skyscrapers. A tornado also touched down near the northwest Houston suburb of Cypress.

More than 352,000 homes and businesses in Texas remained without electricity Sunday morning, with most of those in the Houston area.

“It’s been a madhouse out here,” Cypress resident Hallie O’Bannon said. “You know we don’t have any power. No hot water. It’s been really crazy.”

CenterPoint Energy said it anticipated that about 80% of affected customers in the Houston area would have service restored by Sunday evening. Hidalgo said 90% of customers could be restored by Wednesday.

Officials had worried that high-voltage transmission towers that were torn apart by the high winds would substantially prolong efforts to restore power.

“They were able to go around and reroute around those downed towers because of the new technologies. It’s great news,” Hidalgo said.

But Hidalgo warned residents that if the equipment in their home is damaged, they will not get power until residents take care of those repairs.

More than 4,600 customers remained without power Sunday morning in Louisiana, which had also been hit by strong winds and a suspected tornado.

CenterPoint Energy said 2,000 employees and more than 5,000 contractors were working in the Houston area to restore power.

“We understand the higher temperatures we are experiencing across Houston and surrounding communities make getting the lights and air conditioning back on even more important,” Lynnae Wilson, CenterPoint’s senior vice president of electric business, said in a statement.

The National Weather Service said in a post on the social media site X that residents should expect “sunny, hot and increasingly humid days” in the Houston area. Highs of about 90 degrees (32 Celsius) were expected this week, with heat indexes likely approaching 102 degrees (39 Celsius) by midweek.

On Sunday, five cooling centers in Houston were opened. Officials in Houston and Harris County were distributing food, ice and water at five other locations. More than 2,500 cars picked up food, ice and water Saturday.

Houston area school districts canceled classes for more than 400,000 students Friday. The Houston Independent School District, the state’s largest, said power had been restored to nearly 200 campuses and those schools would be open Monday. But another 77 campuses remained without power. School district officials planned to provide an update on those campuses later Sunday.

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Follow Juan A. Lozano: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

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