Hurricane Beryl kills four, plunges three million into darkness in Texas

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Houston, Jul 9 (PTI) At least four people were killed, and nearly three million homes and businesses were left without power as powerful tropical storm Beryl, which brought damaging winds and floods, slammed into Texas early on Monday.

Beryl brought Schools, businesses, offices, and financial institutions to a halt soon after it made landfall near Matagorda as a category 1 hurricane, the National Hurricane Centre said on Monday evening.

Flooding, rains and tornadoes were possible across portions of eastern Texas, Western Louisiana and Arkansas, the centre said.

Two people were killed after trees fell on homes, and a civilian employee of the Houston Police Department was killed when he was trapped in flood waters.

One more person was reported dead in a fire incident.

Officials asked residents to stay home on Monday night as floodwaters from Beryl began to recede, and crews started surveying the damage.

"Don’t let the clear skies fool you," Mayor John Whitmire said at a news conference.

“There were no immediate reports of widespread structural damages," he said. "We still have dangerous circumstances." Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo offered a similar message: “We're not out of the woods yet... Let’s just wait until tomorrow. Doing a damage assessment on your own property is one thing, but driving around unnecessarily — we really ask that you avoid it.” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is leading the state while Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is out of the country, said it will be a “multiple-day process to get power restored” to the about 2.7 million customers across Texas experiencing outages.

Patrick said CenterPoint officials told him they were sending in 11,500 people to help with restoration efforts.

The workers are coming both from out of state and from unaffected counties in Texas, Patrick said during a late Monday afternoon storm briefing in Austin.

High water, tree damage and other debris are expected to make roadways unsafe for the next several days, according to officials with TxDOT's Houston district.

Several neighbourhoods in Fortbend County, worst affected, saw debris from huge trees on intersections and roads, besides power outages and rising flood waters.

Other neighbourhoods, such as Katy, Cinco Ranch, Cross Creek and Fulshear, have been without power since early Monday morning.

Traffic is off the roads or very sporadic, as very few traffic signals are operational, but all others are down.

Storm damage has largely been limited to downed branches, broken fences and uprooted trees.

"There isn't much structural damage, just broken branches and stuff," said Texas Highway Patrol Officer Corey Robinson, who has been on duty since 6 a.m. on Monday.

"We've got more patrol officers coming in from other cities." School closures will stretch into Tuesday for many of southeast Texas' K-12 districts and higher education institutions. Though schools reported minimal damage no electricity following the storm is a matter of concern.

Beryl, after weakening into a tropical storm, was far less powerful than the Category-5 behemoth that tore a deadly path of destruction through parts of Mexico and the Caribbean last weekend. PTI SHK PY PY PY

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