Beryl leaves three dead, floods and destruction in Texas

Beryl leaves three dead, floods and destruction in Texas
Beryl leaves three dead, floods and destruction in Texas

Strong winds and rains from Tropical Storm Beryl killed at least three people in southeastern Texas on Monday, shutting down oil ports, grounding about 1,000 flights and knocking out power to more than 2 million homes and businesses.

Beryl, the first Category 5 hurricane on record this season, weakened after lashing the coastal Texas city of Matagorda, generating dangerous storm surge and heavy rains before moving toward Houston, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

The storm, which is expected to weaken rapidly as it moves inland, carved a destructive path through Jamaica, Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines last week. So far, at least 13 deaths have been reported in the Caribbean and Texas.

A 53-year-old man and a 74-year-old woman died Monday in two incidents caused by trees falling on their homes in the Houston area, according to Harris County officials. A third person drowned, they added.

Oil refining activity has slowed and some production sites have been evacuated in the state, which is the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the United States.

“Storm surge and heavy rainfall are life-threatening in parts of Texas. Damaging winds continue along the coast, with strong winds moving inland,” the NHC said.

Following warnings that it could be a deadly storm for communities in its path, residents had rushed to board up windows and stock up on fuel and other essential supplies.

Before dawn, strong gusts and torrential rains were lashing towns including Lake Jackson, Galveston, Sargent and Freeport, television images showed.

By late morning, several downed trees blocked roads in Houston as the worst of the storm passed, with persistent winds and some road flooding leaving lanes of major highways impassable.

In a video posted on social media by local Houston station ABC, workers wearing life jackets and using a ladder truck rescued a man in a truck from a flooded stretch of highway.

At a news conference, Houston Mayor John Whitmire urged people to take shelter. He said floodwaters exceeded 10 inches in most parts of the city.

The storm strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane as it crossed the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall, but the NHC said it is now expected to weaken rapidly.

Beryl is forecast to move over eastern parts of the state during the day before moving into the Lower Mississippi Valley and Ohio Valley on Tuesday and Wednesday, the NHC said.

Schools closed as the storm approached. Airlines canceled more than 1,300 flights and authorities ordered several evacuations in coastal cities. At least 300,000 Texas homes and businesses were left without power, according to data from PowerOutage.us.

The closure of major oil ports around Corpus Christi, Galveston and Houston ahead of the storm could disrupt crude exports, shipments to refineries and motor fuel for the plants.

Some oil producers, including Shell y Chevron evacuated personnel from its production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico ahead of the storm. (Reuters)

 
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