No Real Time Updates as CenterPoint's Live Outage Tracker Remains Offline

CenterPoint crew work on power lines affected by the derecho storm.
CenterPoint crew work on power lines affected by the derecho storm.
Many Houston area residents have not only been physically left in the dark on and off over the past two weeks but figuratively, too, as CenterPoint Energy took its live outage tracker offline due to operational issues caused by the influx of customers using the real-time tool.

“It’s useful, especially if you’re checking on family members or loved ones,” Austin Sleeper, a Spring resident, said. “When I lose WiFi and power, I have almost no cell service, even though I’m in a populated area.”

“I can only imagine if you have an elderly family member, not being able to check whether they have power,” he added. “I don’t understand why it hasn’t been a priority to get it fixed.”

According to Michelle Hundley, external communications manager at CenterPoint Energy, the utility company’s tracker started experiencing technical issues after the derecho storm on Thursday, May 16.

Hundley wrote that the utility company is actively working on a replacement but declined to give a timeline or additional details about when a new tool would be available and what needed to be fixed with the outage tracker.

In the aftermath of the wind event, several residents took to X to alert CenterPoint that the live map indicated power restorations had been completed in places that remained without power.

Customer complaints continued on Friday, with Houston-area residents reporting that their lights were off as a result of bad weather passing through the region and that they received little to no information about when they would be back on.

Sleeper described himself as one of the lucky residents who did not lose power at his apartment during the past two weeks. However, he noted that he and his colleagues were not as fortunate as their office building — north of Cypress Station — lost power on and off throughout the past week.

“We don’t pay the electricity for my suite. So without having the outage map, I have no idea of the scope of where all the outages are or their restoration times,” Sleeper said. “I can’t check the address of my office without having access to the information to log in like I could at home.”

“Even the property management couldn’t get any kind of response from CenterPoint or estimation for restoration time,” he added.

Sleeper received routine updates from the building's management, who notified him that there was no power Friday morning until 7 a.m. It got knocked out again between 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. The building started having power issues on Tuesday when the lights remained off from 1 p.m. to roughly 11 p.m.

“From start to finish, I think [CenterPoint] handled things poorly,” Sleeper said. “I get it. It's overwhelming. About 60 percent of the city lost power, and that’s insane. But I don’t think [CenterPoint] have done themselves any favors.

“They haven’t done their customer service representatives any favors either,” he noted. “Imagine the call volume just from the simple fact that nobody can check to see when their power will come back on.”

In place of the outage tracker, the utility company has produced maps with estimated restoration times and provided updates about outages on its website, which are not live but updated in 15-minute increments. 

CenterPoint has also continued to encourage customers to register for Power Alert Service® to receive individual updates — despite residents saying they aren’t receiving them — while a replacement for the outage tracker is being brought online.

On Saturday, showers and light thunderstorm activity returned to the region, as more than 10,000 residents remained without power. In anticipation of the weather, the Families with Pride event at Discovery Green hosted by Houston City Council Member Abbie Kamin and The Greater Houston LGBTQ+ Chamber Of Commerce was canceled.

The utility service took to X to remind customers affected by Saturday's storms to track alerts as the weather blew through the area in the early afternoon and evening hours.
As it turned out, the weather was not as bad as feared and CenterPoint reported that just under 400 customers were affected by active outages. The utility company had worked to restore over 8,000 residents' power over the weekend.