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CenterPoint timeline: Which areas get power first and why?

More than 450,000 CenterPoint customers across the Greater Houston area woke up without power Tuesday morning. If you're one of them, here's what you need to know.

HOUSTON — Hurricane Nicholas caused widespread power outages in Southeast Texas and CenterPoint crews are already hard at work to assess the damage and restore power. 

At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, CenterPoint reported nearly 460,000 customers without power. Crews were able to restore power for many of them by mid-morning and  the number grew quickly as the day went on.

By noon Wednesday, just over 70,000 customers were without power.

CenterPoint said it could take a few days for customers in the hardest-hit areas where winds of more than 75 mph damaged equipment that will have to be repaired.

POWER OUTAGE TRACKER: Some power restored after Hurricane Nicholas leaves more than 558,000 in the dark 

Key CenterPoint updates

  • Customers don't need to call or go online to report outages. CenterPoint says its smart meters tell them which customers are out.  
  • Keep phone lines open for electric and natural gas emergency calls only 
  • Estimated electric restoration times will be provided once assessments are completed 
  • Natural gas system in Houston area is functioning normally
  • Gas Operations crews have begun system assessment where the storm has passed. 

How power restoration process works 

CenterPoint Energy’s crews have been working around the clock before, during and after Hurricane Nicholas. 

The restoration process begins with vital facilities vital including hospitals, fire stations, water treatment plants and public service facilities. 

After power is restored at those key facilities, CenterPoint focuses on repairs at electrical facilities that will return power to the largest number of customers first. They continue using that system in the restoration process until power is returned to everyone.

“We are committed to restoring service to our customers as safely and quickly as possible. However, patience will be important as some areas of our system and equipment may be difficult to reach for our crews due to safety-related issues, such as downed trees,” said Kenny Mercado, Executive Vice President, Electric Utility of CenterPoint Energy. 

Bring in the reinforcements

CenterPoint Energy has requested mutual assistance crews to assist with restoration efforts. As help arrives, they will establish four or more staging sites across Houston to coordinate efforts. 

CenterPoint and other energy companies nationwide are part of electric utility mutual assistance programs that provide access to thousands of linemen and tree trimmers from all over the country during widespread power outage emergencies. 

Natural gas system

CenterPoint Executive Vice President Scott Doyle said Tuesday the natural gas distribution system in the Greater Houston area is functioning normally. 

However, toppled trees have uprooted gas lines causing natural gas leaks and those calls are keeping crews busy. 

“Customers need to call us if they smell natural gas or see a damaged line,” he added. “Gas Operations crews have begun system assessment system where the storm has passed and it’s safe to do so.”

Electric safety tips after storm

  • Stay away from downed power lines. Be especially mindful of downed lines that could be hidden in flood waters and treat all downed lines as if they are energized.  
  • If you experience flooding and water has risen above the electrical outlets in your home, contact a licensed electrician before turning on the main circuit breaker or trying to restore power.  
  • All electrical appliances and electronic equipment that have been submerged in water need to dry thoroughly for at least one week. Then, have them checked by a qualified repair person before turning them on. Attempting to repair a flood-damaged appliance could result in electrical shock or death. Attempting to restart it could result in further damage and costly repairs. 
  • If the outside unit of an air conditioning system has been under water, mud and water may have accumulated in the controls. Have the unit checked by a qualified air conditioning technician. 

Natural gas safety tips after storm 

  • Do not turn off your natural gas service at the meter; doing so could allow water to enter the natural gas lines. 
  • Be alert for the smell of natural gas. If you smell gas, leave the area immediately and tell others to leave, too. 
  • If you smell gas, do not turn the lights on or off, smoke, strike a match, use a cell phone or operate anything that might cause a spark, including a flashlight or a generator. 
  • Do not attempt to turn natural gas valves on or off. Once safely away from the area, call 911 and CenterPoint Energy at 888-876-5786 and the company will send a trained service technician. 
  • If your home was flooded, call a licensed plumber or gas appliance technician to inspect your appliances and gas piping to make sure they are in good operating condition before calling CenterPoint Energy to reconnect service. This includes outdoor gas appliances including pool heaters, gas grills and gas lights. 
  • Before cleaning debris, digging on your property or to locate underground natural gas lines and other underground utility lines, call 811, the nationwide Call Before You Dig number. 
  • Be aware of where your natural gas meter is located. As debris is put out for heavy trash pickup, make sure it is placed away from the meter. In many areas the meter may be located near the curb. If debris is near a gas meter, the mechanized equipment used by trash collectors could pull up the meter, damaging it and causing a potentially hazardous situation. If this happens, leave the area immediately and call CenterPoint Energy at 888-876-5786.  

Get updates on power outages

WATCH: More Tropical Storm Nicholas coverage