Bayou City

For Thousands Across Houston, Lights Slowly Come Back On

An enhanced satellite image of Tropical Storm Harvey from Tuesday morning.
An enhanced satellite image of Tropical Storm Harvey from Tuesday morning. Flickr/NOAA Satellites
For thousands of Houstonians caught in the path of Tropical Storm Harvey’s destruction, life just got a little brighter — literally.

CenterPoint Energy has restored power to more than 96 percent of its 2.4 million customers in the Houston area, according to the company’s outage tracker. In a statement, CenterPoint said it had turned the lights back on for around 580,000 customers, including more than 200,000 in the past 24 hours.

“We will continue to do everything we can — working quickly and safely — until EVERYONE’S power is back on,” the statement read.

Rebecca Virden, a spokeswoman for the company, said efforts to quickly restore power were successful in part because around 200 crews have come to Houston to help. These include not only CenterPoint Energy employees from across the state, but also employees of other companies that have mutual-assistance agreements with CenterPoint, Virden said.

"That has aided us a lot in making progress today," Virden said. Employees from as far away as Florida had expressed interest in joining the recovery effort, she said.

It isn’t clear how many Houstonians still lack power. The Houston Chronicle estimated Tuesday morning that 100,000 people were without electricity. But that math doesn’t seem quite right: If just 5 percent of CenterPoint customers lacked power on Tuesday, that would still leave 120,000 people for just that company. At press time, CenterPoint said lights were out for almost 95,000 of its customers.

Part of what makes this equation tricky is that, while CenterPoint Energy has restored power to some homes, it has also cut off power for others. As rivers flooded and officials made controlled releases from Houston reservoirs, CenterPoint said it shut off parts of its grid to “avoid long-term damage to our electric infrastructure.”

“People might say, ‘Well, there’s not flooding on my street,’” Virden said. “But the controlled releases of water could flood some substations, so we’re taking them out of service.” She said crews were rerouting grids
where they could, in an attempt to bring back power to areas affected by these downed substations. But she acknowledged it had been a rough few days for customers, adding: “We do understand it’s frustrating.”

For more information on where power is on or off in Houston, check out the company’s outage tracker here.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen Paulsen is a journalist and native Houstonian. He writes about crime, food, drugs, urban planning and extremists of all kinds. He covers local news for Houston Press and cannabis policy for Leafly.