HOUSTON, TX -- Nearly three million people are without power in South Texas as residents are assessing Ike's damage. Transportation officials are urging evacuated residents not to return home yet.
In a press release, TX-DOT officials say they are concerned returning evacuees will run out of gas and clog roadways, making it harder for emergency vehicles to pass. There is also considerable debris in the road, and right now, most are without poer.
Entergy is reporting 99% of their customers are out of power. Centerpoint Energy reports 81% of their customers are without power. Trees and water are covering much of the power lines. We're told the companies were forced to shut down some substations to try and salvage equipment.
2.9 million seems like a large number, until your family is among those wondering what to do. In fact, our own Mark Van Paasschen grew up in Houston, his family still lives there in the house where he grew up. Their home is about 15 miles due west of downtown Houston.
His neighborhood was one of many that the city told not to evacuate, so my parents rode out the storm in their home.
Mark spoke with his mom, Melinda, on the challenges they are facing. She says groceries stores are out of power as well so people are struggling to find perishable foods. They prepared for three to four days worth, but most thought the power would turn back on in about one day.
People are lined up outside the grocery store, and then walk in a few at a time to already bare shelves. Gas stations are also packed with people waiting to fill up their tanks. Houstonians are used to a few days out of power, but projections of two weeks are worse.
The Van Paasschens had a pine tree fall into their bedroom as they were sleeping Friday night. In total, two 70-foot pine trees fell into the ceiling, causing significant structural damage. No one was injured, and they happened to book hotel rooms in Sherman in case they need to leave.
Listen to the interview to hear the report in Mrs. Van Paasschen’s own words.
Crews from across the nation are headed to Houston to help the Van Paasschens and many other families get power restored. About 25 trucks from par electric in Kansas City, Missouri stopped in Sherman on their way to Houston.
Hotel rooms en route to Houston are going fast, so they are spending the night in Sherman before leaving early Monday morning. They helped during Katrina as well.
Some Johnston County ambulance crew members are also on the way to Houston. They are relieving another Johnston county crew that's been down there since Wednesday. The director Kenny Power tells us the crew is working around the clock with evacuations and transports.
Since the power is out, most of their runs have been from Houston to hospitals in San Antonio. Some of the runs have been six to seven hours long.
The power outage is also keeping evacuees in limbo. Saturday night there were about ten people staying in the Fairview Baptist shelter. Sunday that number has jumped to about 35 people because the evacuees aren't sure how long they're going to stay in Texoma.
Some, like Vanesa Hernandez, were un-able to afford another night's hotel stay. She's here with her family from Beaumont. Hernandez says they evacuated for Gustav, Rita, and Katrina, but this was the first time they needed sheltering.
"Well, last time we went to my uncle's house in Dallas, but this time, my uncle left, so we just found a hotel and stayed, and so it's a little different than last time. It was better last time."
Hernandez hopes to head home to Beaumont by the middle of this week.