CenterPoint outages in Houston leave millions frustrated

Frustration with the Houston area’s main power company is growing, as more than a million people remained in the dark Wednesday night across Southeast Texas.

"I expect more from CenterPoint," said Houston Mayor John Whitmire.

CenterPoint says this is the largest storm response they’ve ever stood up, noting they’ve already restored power to more than 40% of people following Beryl.

"We’re doing our best to re-energize everyone as quickly as possible," said Centerpoint Energy Communications Director Michelle Hundley.

But state and local leaders are putting pressure on the utility to do more, faster.


"Power is our number one goal to have restored as soon as possible," said Texas Division Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd.

"We tell them to do better. Give us updates. And what are you doing to double down and get additional resources to our community?" said Whitmire.

Until late Tuesday night, CenterPoint customers had no way to even track outages online. The company finally did add an outage map to their website.

But some people posted on social media that they had to resort to using Whataburger’s app instead.

They were apparently able to figure out which areas had power or not, based on which Whataburger locations were open or closed.

Whataburger responded: "Well there’s a use for our app we didn’t think of!"

"Quite honestly, the communications are lacking at CenterPoint," said Ed Hirs, an energy fellow at the University of Houston.

The prolonged outages led to more than 200 carbon monoxide poisoning calls in Houston in just 24 hours, and also impacted hospitals.

"We were informed that the hospitals were backed up, because they weren't able to discharge many patients to homes that didn't have power," said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Gov. Greg Abbott says he has directed the Texas Public Utility Commission to start an inquiry into what may have gone wrong.

But Hirs says, aside from bad communication, "I think CenterPoint’s doing all that they can. They brough in 12,000 linemen and equipment. Keep in mind that’s the size of an army division."

Hirs sees parallels between what’s happening now in Houston, and a recent ice storm in the Austin area.

"Just like we had in Austin in February 2023. The big issue is, of course, the trees and the fact that the distribution lines are down at neighborhood levels," said Hirs.

Hirs points out residents often oppose preventive efforts to trim vegetation or upgrade poles, because they feel it’s too expensive, or too ugly.

"There’s always a tension with the local utility and the public," said Hirs.

Hirs says utilities need to be more prepared in general for the fact that extreme weather events are simply happening more often.