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Beryl weakens to a tropical depression as it moves eastward out of Texas

A vehicle is left abandoned in floodwater on a highway after Hurricane Beryl swept through the area on Monday in Houston.
Brandon Bell
/
Getty Images
A vehicle is left abandoned in floodwater on a highway after Hurricane Beryl swept through the area on Monday in Houston.

Updated July 08, 2024 at 22:13 PM ET

Beryl was making its way out of Texas and moving toward northwest Louisiana and Arkansas on Monday night after leaving at least three people dead, roads flooded, debris scattered and power out for millions as it passed.

The National Hurricane Center warned of local flash and urban flooding posed threats in northeast Texas, far southeastern Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri through Tuesday.

The storm arrived on the Texas coast with hurricane strength but has since weakened to a tropical depression, according to the hurricane center. Beryl carried maximum sustained winds of 35 mph, but not without dumping 5 to more than 10 inches of rain along its path.

In Houston, 2.2 million customers were without power on Monday afternoon, according to local officials. Photos showed parts of the city's Interstate 10 flooded along with other area roads.

"Beryl has done significant damage," said Mayor John Whitmire at a Monday afternoon press briefing. "Don’t let the clear skies fool you, we still have dangerous circumstances."

The storm hit Houston with winds of 90 mph and rain totaling 10-15 inches, he said.

Three people have been confirmed killed. A civilian employee of the Houston Police Department died after his car was submerged in floodwaters, the mayor said.

Earlier, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said a man died after a tree fell on his home in a northeast Houston suburb.

"The man (53) was reportedly sitting in house with family, riding out the storm, Gonzalez said via X. "An oak tree fell on roof and hit rafters, structure fell on the male. Wife and children unharmed."

In the Spring area north-northwest of downtown Houston, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said that "a 74-year-old grandmother also passed away due to a tree falling on her bedroom."

About 2.6 million customers were without power across Texas on Monday evening.

Local officials warned residents to stay off the roads, as thousands of traffic signals and lights were out. "Our streets are a mess," said Randy Macchi, chief operating officer of Houston Public Works. There was "significant damage" to intersections, he said, which would take "a number of days and probably weeks" to assess and repair.

The National Weather Service warned tornadoes were possible in east Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas through Monday night and an additional 4 to 8 inches of rain could fall as the storm moves through east Texas.

Another threat remains as the sun comes out: dangerous heat. The heat index in southeast Texas could reach 105 degrees on Tuesday — and widespread power outages mean air conditioning will be hard to find. Houston officials said they were opening cooling centers.

Beryl made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane

Beryl made landfall near Matagorda, Texas, around 80 miles southwest of Houston, as a Category 1 hurricane around 4 a.m. local time, according to the National Hurricane Center. It came hours after regaining hurricane-strength winds of at least 80 mph late Sunday.

Just about everyone who lived in low areas near the Matagorda Bay evacuated. In town though, there were some who stayed, like Otto Barrere, who rode out the storm in his RV.

"Just a lot of heavy wind," he told NPR. "We lost power around 2 o’clock. A lot of downed trees, a lot of debris from the water. But other than that, I fared good."

In Liberty County, northeast of Houston, Beryl uprooted a landmark tree — “a beloved pecan tree that had stood on the courthouse square for generations,” as local news outlet Bluebonnet News reported.

A tree collapsed on a truck in Rosenberg, Texas, as Hurricane Beryl made landfall Monday along the Gulf Coast.
Mark Felix / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
A tree collapsed on a truck in Rosenberg, Texas, as Hurricane Beryl made landfall Monday along the Gulf Coast.

Flash and urban flooding is expected Monday night across eastern Texas and the upper Texas coast, the National Hurricane Center warned.

The storm regained strength after leaving the Caribbean

Beryl is the earliest Atlantic storm in a calendar year to become a Category 5 hurricane. It left at least 11 people dead as it tore through the Caribbean last week.

Climate change is making hurricanes stronger and more intense, leading to higher wind speeds, heavier rainfall and more severe storm surges. Warmer ocean temperatures fuel more powerful storms and climate change is driving record-high temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean.

Beryl briefly weakened into a tropical storm after passing through Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. But as Beryl regained hurricane-strength winds, the NHC issued a litany of advisories for the area stretching from Galveston to Mesquite Bay to Corpus Christi.

A house in Houston, Texas, is surrounded by floodwater on Monday. Tropical Storm Beryl developed into a Category 1 hurricane hours before hitting the Texas coast.
Brandon Bell / Getty Images
/
Getty Images
A house in Houston, Texas, is surrounded by floodwater on Monday. Tropical Storm Beryl developed into a Category 1 hurricane hours before hitting the Texas coast.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick preemptively put 121 counties under a state disaster declaration before the storm hit.

From Texas, the center of Beryl is expected to move inland across Arkansas on Tuesday, then through Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio through Wednesday.

"Widespread heavy rains are likely along and to the northeast of the path of Beryl over the next two days with rainfall totals of 2-5" from far northeast Texas, across large section of Arkansas, southeast Missouri, central to southern Illinois, Indiana, far northwest Ohio into the southern portions of the L.P. of Michigan," the National Weather Service said on Monday.

Copyright 2024 NPR

James Doubek is an associate editor and reporter for NPR. He frequently covers breaking news for NPR.org and NPR's hourly newscast. In 2018, he reported feature stories for NPR's business desk on topics including electric scooters, cryptocurrency, and small business owners who lost out when Amazon made a deal with Apple.
Ayana Archie
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.