HOUSTON – Utility crews restored electricity Friday to half of the homes and businesses left without power after Hurricane Humberto, while experts estimated total damages from the storm would cost less than $500 million.
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Humberto, the first hurricane to hit the U.S. in two years, continued to lose strength Friday as its remnants moved through Mississippi to the East Coast. The storm made landfall Thursday in Texas and then pushed across Louisiana.
The storm left as many as 120,000 Texas and Louisiana homes and businesses without power. While many would be restored by the weekend, some could be without power until Tuesday, said Joe Domino, Entergy Texas president and chief executive officer.
At High Island, the coastal town of 500 where the center of Humberto made landfall, many customers, including the local water utility, had generators for essential needs and kept fresh water flowing from taps.
"I think we can do better without lights than we can without water," resident George Leger said.
The remnants of Humberto were located in northwestern Georgia Friday afternoon and moving northeast, according to the National Weather Service. Maximum sustained winds were only 15 mph and an inch or two of rain was likely.
In the Carolinas, the remnants of the storm collided with a cold front, leading to wind and heavy rain and even sightings of funnel clouds. There were dozens of power outages and traffic accidents, and a nursing home in Fuquay-Varina, near Raleigh, N.C., was being evacuated because a tree fell on the building.
"It's just terrible," said Mildred Wheeler, whose husband lives in the home. "Water's flooding the building, and you have people here on oxygen machines."
Humberto's path into Texas was close to the one taken two years ago by Hurricane Rita. Damages, however, were expected to be considerably less because Humberto was relatively small and made landfall in a sparsely populated area.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry declared three counties — Orange, Jefferson and Galveston — disaster areas, making them eligible for financial assistance. State military forces were brought in to help provide water, ice and equipment to aid in the cleanup.
On the Bolivar Peninsula, opposite and east of Galveston, officials estimated debris, most from High Island, amounted to about 1,500 cubic yards of structural material and 3,000 cubic yards of tree limbs and brush. That comes out to about 1 1/2 football fields three feet deep.
Damage from the storm was likely to cost less than $500 million, Risk Management Solutions, a California-based firm that quantifies catastrophe risks for insurance companies, said. The dollar figure included physical damages to homes and businesses, and business losses due to interruptions because of power outages and damages.
The one death attributed to the storm occurred early Thursday in Bridge City, when 80-year-old John Simon was killed as his backyard patio collapsed on him in the high winds, Maj. Joey Hargrave of the Bridge City police said.
In Port Arthur, two of three major crude oil and liquid hydrocarbons plants idled because of power problems had power restored. Refineries for Valero Energy Corp. and Total Petrochemicals USA Inc. were in the process of being restarted, company spokesmen said. Shell Oil Co. said its Motiva Port Arthur Refinery had some power restored but remained down as assessments continued.
Humberto developed into a hurricane with 85 mph winds in just 18 hours. Only three other storms have pulled off a similar feat, growing from depression to hurricane in 18 hours — Blanche in 1969, Harvey in 1981 and Alberto in 1982 — but none of them were about to make landfall.
Far off in the open ocean, Tropical Storm Ingrid, which Thursday became the ninth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, was about 655 miles east of the Lesser Antilles and moving toward the west-northwest near 9 mph. The National Hurricane Center was expecting it to continue at that pace for the next 24 hours and then turn slightly to the northwest and possibly decrease in strength. Maximum sustained winds were near 40 mph with higher gusts.