September 26th, 2008
07:30 AM ET

Two weeks later: Houston still in the dark

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/25/art.ike.powerlines.jpg
caption="Florida Light and Power Co. linemen work to restore power in the Houston area."]
Ed Lavandera | BIO
CNN Correspondent in Houston, Texas

Susan Wood feels like she’s the victim of a cruel practical joke.

Her next door neighbor’s power, in the Houston suburb of Bellaire, has been restored. All her neighbors across the street have power. Even the family that lives behind her has power. But Susan Wood sits in the dark waiting for the lights, and air conditioning, to turn on.

“It’s crazy. It doesn’t have any rhyme or reason to it,” said Wood. “So now we’re irritated.”

About 500,000 people across the Houston region are still without electrical power nearly two weeks after Hurricane Ike struck the southeast Texas coast.

The electric company with the most customers still without power, CenterPoint Energy, says it has done good work in a short time by restoring electricity to 75% of its customers within two weeks. The company says it hopes to have almost all power restored by this Sunday.

“There are certainly tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousand of trees, which have fallen as a result of this storm and these outages are caused in large amount by these trees falling into the infrastructure,” said Tom Standish, president of regional operations for CenterPoint Energy.

But what’s frustrating many Houston area residents is the lack of information. Susan Wood says she was told power would be restored this past Monday. That deadline has come and gone.

“I think the biggest frustration is we don’t know why we don’t have power and its only five or six houses on our block,” said Susan Wood.

The lack of power is also creating traffic nightmares across the city. Traffic lights are out in many intersections turning daily commutes into exhausting adventures on the roadways.

And in many neighborhoods residents have resorted to begging for help. Posting signs reading “Help Us” and “Please Turn On Our Power.”

The lack of power has sparked creative solutions. On Wood’s street neighbors with power have strung extension cords across the street to help their friends in the dark.

Susan Wood is using the cord to turn on one fan. Her family is staying in Dallas with family until the power comes back on and at night she sleeps at a friend’s house with air conditioning.

On this day, Susan Wood and several frustrated neighbors just sit around the fan waiting for the power to come back. As the temperatures rise and the beads of sweat roll down their faces, the anger builds.

“Incredibly frustrating,” said Andrea Rigamonti. “I am just sitting around sweating waiting for the power to come on and it’s been like 13 days now and nothing.”

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Hurricane Ike
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Lisa

    These people need to quit complaining and be thankful they have a home. The people of Bridge City, Sabine Pass and from High Island to Galveston would be grateful if the only thing they had to worry about was power.The people in these communities have lost everything and some have lost family members. Get over it.

    September 28, 2008 at 10:37 pm |
  2. Randy Dear

    I live in just outside Houston in Harris County. My subdivision was without power for 13 days. Power was restored Friday Sept. 26. I would like to thank those power companies and the crewes that came to Houston to help restore power. Center Point was not prepared for and outage of this size. Power crews have been seen sitting and waiting for direction from Center Point. Some of these crewes have admitted that they were waiting on Center Point. Some of the Crewes have even stated that Center Point was not organized.

    My subdivision lost power due to two broken power poles. These poles went down due to trees falling on the power lines. Two new poles were delivered but layed on the ground for the better part of a week before being installed. I am not happy with Center Point. By the way Center Point (HL&P), Reliant have one of if not the highest rate in the State of Texas.

    September 28, 2008 at 2:31 pm |
  3. Elliott Jones

    You know I oversee a hotel as a GM and when situations like this happen, we have procedures and clear timelines with one of them being communication to people in the building. Why is it when terrible catastrophes happen like this, people cannot open a book or look at a map and section a city off and be in charge of one area and all that is related to that area. Water, food, shelter, living conditions, etc. I am so sick and tired of our government and how they respond to issues and follow up that lacks. I guarantee you in about a year or so, one of the news channels will do an investigation and find a warehouse full of supplies or some families that were not even affacted by the inclimate weather receiving money and services.

    This is truly sad. My sister is down there in Houston without power as of 426 ET this afternoon..............................................................

    September 26, 2008 at 4:26 pm |
  4. Steve/Houston,TX for Obama

    I finally got power and I can't explain how horrible it was to be without power in this heat! I thank God that my home was okay and I feel that this was all that truly mattered that no one in my family was injured. In the future, I will not stay and ride out another storm. Our local government failed us and asked us to not evacuate. No one knew the power would be out for so long or that it would have such an affect on the city. It was hard to find food and gas. When you have small children, these are the things that you have to think about. The media really just reported on what happened in Galveston which in fact was tragic but there were other areas that were greatly affected. There are many homes in Houston that were flooded and have much damage. I have neighbors that now have huge trees laying on their homes and it is going to be a hard adjustment for them. All of the hotels are booked solid.

    September 26, 2008 at 3:52 pm |
  5. Deanna Burr, Canada

    Would one of Susan Wood's neighbors please reach out to her by allowing her to plug an extention cord into one of their exterior outlets...until her power is restored? I can't imagine being her or the other 25% of Houston residents who are still without the basic necessities of life. I understand these things take time,but if the people with power are willing to share...the circumstances in Houston would do a complete 360. Now that's a story I would love to watch!

    September 26, 2008 at 2:43 pm |
  6. Amanda Wolfe

    Mr. Lavandera, I cannot thank you enough for this story. I've been trying desperately to get the attention of news media outside of Houston regarding what is really going on down here, and other than a "viral" online campaign that's picking up, I've seen no response from anyone other than CNN. Thanks to the bailout, the story simply fell through the cracks, and southeast Texas was abandoned by FEMA long ago. Thousands of people in Houston alone are sick from going without electricity or decent food, and Galveston is another story altogether. No medical care, no food, no water, no electricity – and no one knows where they are going to stay until housing is provided in November.

    I've received many responses from people asking where they can donate or how they can best help, since that information has not been disseminated; I beg all of you at CNN to please pass that along to the general population. I know it's a tough time to ask for help, but perhaps if the word gets out, someone will think to set aside a little of that $700 billion for an important region that desperately needs it. Thank you again for shining a light on this, and thanks to CNN for always listening to its viewers.

    September 26, 2008 at 1:02 pm |
  7. Teresa Van Deusen

    Don't forget the thousands without running water for the last 14 days. Or the homeless people in Galveston living in tents trying to avoid the rats and mosquitos!

    The new danger as power is restored are the fires: elevator shafts and transformers, candles bumped inthe night. This is the 4 th largest city in our nation, two weeks into recovery. What a nightmare!

    September 26, 2008 at 12:17 pm |
  8. Stephanie

    What is even MORE frustrating about this situation is the fact that these people continue to complain about the power situation...while sitting in their home...that is still standing. Yes, having no power is difficult, but dealing with death and destruction is much more so. I live in southeast Texas near the coast and have experienced the devastation myself. There are Centerpoint employees who have not seen their familes in weeks, having traveled here from all over, to help dig Texas out of this mess. They have done an AWESOME job! Instead of complaining and "sitting around sweating waiting for the power to come on," take a moment to thank God that you are alive and have a home to sit around and sweat in! Perhaps some need to do themselves a favor and walk down to a neighbors house and flip on their TV to the local news. Once you see the piles of rubble that were once people's homes, their entire lives, you will be a little less self centered.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:48 am |
  9. Karen Titshaw

    These people need to stop complaining. When Hurricane Charley came through and destroyed Southwest Florida, I had no electric for more than 3 weeks. My husband left Monday, September 1st to go help with the storms. He is a lineman. He was told he may get back home sometime in November. Now I could sit here and whine, moan and complain too BUT I do know that a majority of these people are so grateful for people like my husband to be away from his home and family. Don’t doubt my husband tells his self this daily, that most of the people are graceful when he starts getting depressed with the situation of the devastation, the flash backs of what we went though. I know this because of how grateful I was several years ago. So, those of you, who think you have any rights to complain, shut up. You are not the only ones sacrificing.

    September 26, 2008 at 10:34 am |
  10. Sherri

    I do not understand why this isnt getting more coverage. Centerpoint did not maintain lines properly before the storm, often not even coming to look at problems unless multiple calls were made. They are understaffed, turned away help from Entergy and refuses to tell the public anything. Any negative postings about it on the Houston chronicle page are deleted with in minutues. Frustrations are growing and the apathy and or arrogance we are greeted with is infuriating

    September 26, 2008 at 9:51 am |
  11. Annie Kate

    I feel for those who don't have power in Houston – its still hot and humid here in the south and its tough to deal with especially when those around you have power. We had the same kind of problem after Katrina – everyone on our block had power back except us and our next door neighbor. Turned out we were on a separate transformer and they had to replace that. Once they did and our power came on that sweet sound of the air conditioner was like heaven.

    I hope everyone gets their power back soon. I know its rough.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    September 26, 2008 at 8:29 am |