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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Erum Salam

Houston power outages persist amid sweltering heat

People collect food and water from volunteers
Volunteers provide food and water to people without power in Houston. Photograph: Jon Shapley/AP

Houston, Texas, is still grappling with the effects of a massive storm that swept through the US south last week, including widespread power outages that have persisted for days in increasingly hotter weather.

More than 200,000 Houstonians have been without power, and thus air conditioning, for more than four days already, and may have to wait even longer since CenterPoint Energy, the utility company which primarily services the city, has failed to restore power in many parts. Although more than 75% of residents have had their power turned back on, many will still have to wait until at least Wednesday.

The recent bout of severe weather caused major flooding, as well as damage to homes and buildings, and killed seven people.

The power company published a map that shows when different areas can expect power to return, but some areas – such as parts of Katy, Humble and Magnolia – will have to wait until Wednesday to turn on their lights and air conditioning.

The National Weather Service said “heat index values will be approaching/exceeding 100F throughout the week” in south-east Texas.

CenterPoint cited “downed trees, large limbs, heavy debris and fences” from the storm as a reason for failure to restore power.

Most major school districts remained closed due to the inclement weather, but some students, like those in the Houston independent school district (HISD), returned to school on Monday despite the outages. Students suffered in sweltering heat in classrooms without working air conditioning, sparking outcry from teachers, parents and lawmakers.

“There is no reason why HISD should have had class today in these conditions – this is completely unacceptable. Yet another failure in leadership from this state takeover,” said the Democratic US congressman Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents much of Houston.

Texas is no stranger to widespread power outages. In February 2022, much of the state was blanketed in snow and faced a deadly winter storm. Nearly the entire state experienced a blackout due to the unique nature of the electrical grid. Unlike the rest of the US, Texas has its own electrical grid, which in recent years has been criticized for failing to “weatherize”, or update equipment to withstand extreme weather.

The National Weather Service told residents in the city to stay hydrated and to call 911 if experiencing symptoms of heatstroke, which include confusion and dizziness.

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