Restaurant News

Frustrated with CenterPoint, Houston Turns to Whataburger

Whataburger's app is a handy map to zip codes with power.
Whataburger's app is a handy map to zip codes with power. Photo by Jef Rouner
With CenterPoint Energy still not providing an outage map for areas affected by Hurricane Beryl, frustrated Houstonians are turning to the Whataburger app to look for places with power to re-supply.

"I've noticed using the Whataburger app at least gives me an idea of where there might be power," says Dave McBride, who lives in the Copperfield area with his girlfriend, Tiffany Clark. "I haven't found anything else more reliable yet."
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Despite being the hardest hit, the west of Houston has more open Whataburgers than the east.
Screenshot of Whataburger app at 2:37 p.m. on July 9, 2024

Hurricane Beryl slammed into Houston early Monday morning as a Category 1 hurricane. By 9 a.m., more than 2 million people were without power. That number began steadily dropping around 3 p.m., but more than 1.5 million still remain without electricity as the temperature once again climbs into the 90s.
CenterPoint has given regular updates and promised round-the-clock work, but a cursory look at the company's social media platforms shows that people are desperate and angry that more concrete maps and ETAs on return of service haven't been published.

As the second day of widespread power outages dawned on Tuesday morning, enterprising Houstonians realized that the citywide map of open Whataburger locations in their app was functional. While only a handful of the more than 30 restaurants are open, and those that are have long lines, it gives a rough approximation of which zip codes have power. If Whataburger is open, then it could mean nearby stores are as well.

"Houstonians are nothing if not ingenious during natural disasters," says Natalie Lynn Ward, Chair-Elect at Montgomery County Democratic Party. "But we all just wish CenterPoint’s outage tracker actually provided us the details we all want to know. How long before my power is expected to be restored?"

During May's derecho storm, It was more than 24 hours before CenterPoint produced a map that showed which zip codes were still being worked on and when they could expect to see power. There was a similar level of frustration then, though it began to subside as more neighborhoods came back online on schedule.

"We are working around-the-clock to restore power to the 2.26 million customers affected by Hurricane Beryl," said CenterPoint in a press release Tuesday afternoon. "The first hurricane of the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season, Beryl significantly impacted CenterPoint’s service territory, with damaging winds reaching 97-miles-per-hour in Brazoria County, 89-miles-per-hour in Harris County, and 78-miles-per-hour in Galveston County, according to the Houston-Galveston National Weather Service."

CenterPoint says it has deployed 12,000 workers into the field, many of whom were marshalled and ready before the storm made landfall.

In the meantime, Houstonians are making do with Whataburger's app. It doesn't give an estimate of when things might return to normal, but it does at least say where it has so far.

"Seems like the storm has done more for the Whataburger app than all their advertising," says Clark.
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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner