Some Galveston County residents might be without power for days as repair crews clean up after Hurricane Nicholas, energy distribution companies said Tuesday.
For many people, power flickered off late Monday or early Tuesday as winds knocked over poles or blew tree limbs into power lines. And with many downed lines, restoring power to everyone could take through the end of the week, officials said.
By Tuesday afternoon, thousands of customers across Galveston County were without power, including 10,000 in Galveston, 7,600 in Hitchcock and a few thousand in most other mainland communities, according to outage maps.
The outages are caused by wind damage to the distribution system, said Eric Paul, spokesman for Texas-New Mexico Power, which distributes energy to some mainland communities.
“The lines you see around neighborhoods, those were impacted by wind, trees, other things flying around,” Paul said.
Winds in Galveston County reached as high as about 70 mph early Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.
CenterPoint Energy, which distributes power on the island and to mainland communities, deployed about 3,000 crew members across the region to restore power, spokeswoman Alejandra Diaz said.
The issue is actually getting power to customers, she said.
“Our transmission and substations are performing well,” Diaz said. “There are downed power lines and damage to distribution equipment. We were expecting a tropical storm with flooding being the biggest threat, and we got a hurricane with strong winds.”
There isn’t much the company could have done to protect power lines from wind, she said.
Diaz wasn’t sure why some residents might have had short, repeated outages overnight. But she guessed the system was automatically trying to bring homes back online when power tripped off.
Exactly when the power will return is hard to tell until crews finish a full assessment of the damaged equipment, which could take until Wednesday morning, Diaz said.
The lack of power, for some, has become the bigger issue than any wind or water damage.
Island resident Steve Carter fared well in terms of water and wind damage at his Pointe West home, he said.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Carter said.
But as of Tuesday afternoon, he still was without power, and so were all his neighbors whose West End homes he was checking on, he said.
Carter just moved into his home full time in July, so he wasn’t in Galveston for the February winter storm, when power was out for days. But he doesn’t want a repeat of the freeze, he said.
“I certainly don’t think it is as bad as the winter storm was,” Carter said. “But I don’t think we want to be out of power for too awful long.”
The standard guidance for power restoration after a Category 1 storm is five to seven days, but City Manager Brian Maxwell doesn’t think it will take that long, he said.
“I think definitely the headline story of this whole thing is going to be the power,” Maxwell said.
Unlike the February winter storm, which affected millions of Texans, many parts of the county do have power so residents can find food, fuel and other essentials, he said.
“Of bigger concern to me would be that the entire electrical resources community is stretched pretty thin considering what’s going on in Louisiana and now here,” Maxwell said.
Hurricane Ida devastated eastern Louisiana communities two weeks ago and crews still are working on repairs in that area, he said.
Many West End residents didn’t have power Tuesday, District 6 Councilwoman Marie Robb, who represents the West End, said.
“We have pocket outages that are being caused by transformers that have actually fallen off poles or poles that are fallen,” Robb said. “Although they said it was going to be a rain event, it really was a wind event.”
Texas-New Mexico warned that some customers might not have power until Friday, Paul said.
“An outage could affect one customer or it could affect 1,500 customers,” Paul said. “It can take as much time to get 1,500 people back on as it does five.”
Once crews repair a main line, some customers might find their power is still out if a line closer to their home was down, he said.
“There could be additional outages downstream that we don’t even know about,” Paul said. “It doesn’t do any good to fix the water hose if the hose isn’t connected to the house.”
Paul urged people to use caution around downed power lines to avoid electrocution.