Tropical Storm Beryl tracker: Millions without power in Texas, flood-prone communities in storm’s path

Tropical Storm Beryl tracker: Millions without power in Texas, flood-prone communities in storm’s path

Tropical Storm Beryl is making a slow, ruinous passage out of Houston, where it is flooding highways and knocking out power lines.

As of 3 p.m. local time Monday, as the eye of the storm moved over the western Houston suburbs, more than 2.7 million Texans were without power, according to tracking site PowerOutage.us.

Much of the already flood-prone city has experienced 5 to 8 inches of rain, with some particularly unlucky neighborhoods experiencing more than 10, according to Harris County’s Flood Warning System.

Homes in Houston’s lower-income northeast have flooded, one nonprofit told The Hill, as have many of the city’s major freeways. One man was rescued from the cab of his truck as the water rose along Highway 288. Winds ripped trees from the ground, roots and all.

While the storm has weakened, its current path is set to bring it over more than a dozen flood-prone communities across the Ohio Valley and Upper Midwest before the week’s end.

Beryl has stood out for its early-season ferocity, fueled by a hot ocean and a warming world, as well as its passage over the nation’s petrochemical heartland.

Acting Texas Gov. Dan Patrick (R), who has assumed the role while Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is abroad, described Beryl as “a determined storm” and warned of “heavy rain and some localized flooding” from the coast to inland East Texas cities like College Station, Texarkana and Tyler.

“Do not ignore this storm,” Patrick added.

Here’s what you should know about Beryl as it makes its way across Texas and toward the Midwest.

High winds, heavy rain in the storm’s path

Beryl rumbled ashore as a Category 1 hurricane early Monday morning in Matagorda County, Texas, southeast of Houston.

By noon, the center of the storm had passed above Houston’s western suburbs, and the National Weather Service (NWS) downgraded Beryl to tropical storm status.

The coastal community of Freeport saw wind speeds of 97 miles per hour, according to Space City Weather; when the storm hit Houston, a sensor at the city’s Hobby Airport recorded a maximum wind speed of 84 miles per hour just before it stopped transmitting.

As of 11 a.m., wind gusts were down to a maximum of 70 miles an hour.

But the agency noted that the risk is still considerable. “Flooding rains, strong tropical storm force winds and isolated tornadoes will continue to be possible as this system tracks further inland,” the NWS’s Houston office wrote on the social platform X.

The disruptions at the storm’s fringes have put 4.5 million people at risk from “likely” tornadoes in a north-south band along the Texas-Louisiana border, the office added.

Outages and heat risk

Amid the harsh weather conditions, the Houston area was a mess of power outages as of 12 p.m. Monday. More than half of Harris County, home to most of Houston proper, as well as virtually all of neighboring Wharton and Brazoria counties had lost power.

“That’s more than the May derecho,” which knocked out power for nearly 1 million customers, “and roughly 50 to 60 percent of the region,” Space City Weather meteorologists wrote. “It will take time to restore it. We have no idea how long. We know many of you are frustrated, and we’re just hoping for the best like you are.”

Lack of power also means a looming loss of cell service, as wires to cell towers have been knocked out and their backup batteries slowly lose power.

One small silver lining for Houstonians amid the destruction and outages: The storm has cooled off temperatures, leaving the metropolis with minimal heat risk throughout the week.

But by Friday, temperatures will be creeping back up, with most of the region under a level 2 heat risk, threatening “individuals sensitive to heat, especially those without effective cooling,” according to the NWS.

Heat sensitivity increases for those who are under 18 or over 65 (38 percent of Harris County residents) or obese (31 percent).

If power is not returned soon, many residents will also face another threat: running out of food as perishables rot in the absence of functional refrigerators or freezers.

Flood danger for Texas communities 

With much of Houston receiving between 5 and 10 inches of rain, flooding stands out  as the dominant threat to the region. Bayous across the eastern half of Harris County escaped their concrete channels on Monday, and county data suggested flooding along Buffalo Bayou, Brays Bayou, Green Bayou and the San Jacinto River.

Many cities and neighborhoods in and around Houston are at stark risk of flooding, according to proprietary data shared exclusively with The Hill by First Street Foundation, a nonprofit climate technology company.

That data shows that 54 percent of the properties in Matagorda County, where the hurricane came ashore, are at perennial risk of flooding.

In Bolivar and Galveston, barrier island cities at the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel, the danger is even more pervasive, encompassing 93 and 97 percent of properties, respectively.

While Houston as a whole is somewhat less exposed — just under a third of properties in the city face significant risk of flood, according to the data — certain neighborhoods are particularly flood-prone.

About 83 percent of properties in the wealthy southwestern enclave of Bellaire — where nearly 10 inches of rain fell on Monday — are at perennial risk of flood, for instance.

Beryl is pummeling many outlying areas of Houston that had already been hit by May’s severe thunderstorms, which led to flooding bad enough that 400 people had to be rescued.

On X, Columbia University climate scientist Mona Hemmati posted videos of 6-inch-deep water at major Houston intersections flooding with rain on Saturday afternoon, more than a day before Beryl made landfall.

The problems, Hemmati argued, are chronic. “Urban development has added impervious surfaces, intensifying runoff with any excessive rainfall,” she wrote. “As the climate warms, more intense rainfall is expected, worsening existing flooding issues.”

Ohio Valley next in storm’s sights

After passing over Houston, the storm is forecast to move at the speed of a running person up through Arkansas, heading for the tributaries of the Mississippi River — in particular the Ohio Valley and, ultimately, the Great Lakes.

In Little Rock, Ark., where the storm is expected to arrive Tuesday morning, the NWS office warned that its “remants” could bring quarter-sized hail. The Memphis office warned of severe thunderstorms, as well as flash flooding across Arkansas and the Missouri Bootheel.

From there, the storm will gradually lose strength, but will still dump enough rain to be threatening. Indianapolis can expect up to 2.5 inches of rain along the Wabash River by Tuesday evening. So too, by Wednesday, could communities as far afield as Metro Detroit, where the NWS office predicts 1 to 3 inches of rain, and an elevated risk of flooding.

And by Wednesday night, the storm’s weakest remnants will bring rain showers as far afield as northern New Jersey and Boston.

Stark flood risk beyond Texas

By the time it reaches New Jersey, Beryl “won’t be a topical storm or hurricane … it will just be showers,” NWS meteorologist Allison Lancia told NorthJersey.com.

But in many communities in the storm’s path over the coming days, showers may be enough to cause significant upheaval.

A Hill analysis of First Street data found several Midwestern communities within or just outside Beryl’s probable path that face significant flood risk, defined as more than 30 percent of their properties being at risk of flood.

For example, on its path north the storm will likely graze the Louisville, Ky., suburb of West Point, where 40 percent of properties face such risk, and then the Cincinnati, Ohio, suburb of Elwood Place (46 percent) and the exurb New Miami (64 percent) on its way over northern Ohio. There, it could bring heavy rainfall to the towns of Defiance and Fostoria and the Cleveland neighborhood of Valley View, where a quarter to half of properties in each community are at risk of flood.

From there, if the storm banks east along Lake Erie, it will head through or just beside a long line of flood-prone municipalities in upstate New York: the Lackawanna neighborhood of Buffalo, N.Y. (31 percent); the Rochester Institute of Technology (64 percent); the Syracuse suburb of Camillus (30 percent) and Ithaca (47 percent).

If Beryl swings wider west, meanwhile, it will pass over the Indiana towns of Logansport (40 percent) and Peru (56 percent), before heading toward Metro Detroit, where neighborhoods like Belleville (84 percent) and River Rouge (65 percent) stand out as particularly vulnerable to flooding.

As in Houston, the heightened risk of flood in Detroit — and many other cities on this list — stems from aging infrastructure unable to handle the throughput of a significant storm. About 46 percent of Detroit homeowners surveyed in one study dealt with flooding between 2012 and 2020, after federal investment in the region cratered from 60 percent in the 1970s to 10 percent in 2014.

Getting the region’s infrastructure ready for climate change is predicted to cost an estimated $5 billion per year — in Southeast Michigan alone, according to the regional planning body. “Now we are seeing the cost of not fixing it,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) told reporters in 2021, after a flood that year closed Interstate 94.

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