Residents of Houston seniors building swelter without power or help (2024)

HOUSTON — With no electricity, air conditioning, working elevators or toilets, the tenants of Walipp Senior Residence were in post-hurricane crisis mode Tuesday.

“I don’t know whether the government’s going to come see about us,” said Diana Johnson, a 74-year-old breast cancer survivor living on the top floor of the four-story building, who was worried about neighbors on life-sustaining equipment that needs to be plugged in.

Millions of people across the sprawling Houston metropolitan region remained without power, with no end in sight, a day after Hurricane Beryl walloped Southeast Texas with flooding rain and punishing winds. Still, the most vulnerable because of age or health conditions were at greatest risk given the sweltering summer heat.

Among those who died was Judith Greet, 71, of nearby Crystal Beach. She suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and succumbed after her oxygen machine stopped working amid the outages, officials said Tuesday.


At the Walipp complex, just south of downtown Houston, Johnson had to navigate several flights of darkened stairs and a shattered glass front door to get a cold drink at a nearby gas station, where lines for filling up snaked around the block, with occasional fights.

The retired deli worker then made her way back to her apartment, opened the windows and searched for a breeze. Temperatures were expected to climb to 105 degrees. Her supply of vienna sausages would soon run out. She had food in the freezer but wasn’t sure how long it would last.

On the third floor, Melvin Williams, 61, sat in a breezeway next to his walker. He is disabled because of blood clots in his legs that make walking tough. He doesn’t have a car, it was unclear when the buses would resume running, and his family is in Dallas, he said. “All my friends are in this building.”


Williams figured he had enough food to last four days. “After that,” he said, sounding worried, “I have to figure out something else.”

The 56-unit complex was fully occupied before Hurricane Beryl, but residents with relatives nearby were leaving to stay with them. Some people persuaded neighbors in their 90s to go, especially if they lived on the top floor.

Warren Moss, 94, a retired carpenter and U.S. Army veteran, sat in the lobby wearing his Korean War veteran cap while he waited for his granddaughter to pick him up. Though he had enough water and other supplies to stay in his fourth-floor unit, “it’s tough coming down them steps,” he said.

Others had nowhere to escape, or no way to get there.

“Where is the Red Cross? Why isn’t anybody here?” resident Jessica Gonzalez asked.

Gonzalez, 59, is a gig worker who is disabled, walks with a cane and can’t deal with stairs. She’d heard about a day shelter with power, air conditioning and food — a refuge set up at a Gallery Furniture store running on a generator on the city’s north side. But her car battery had died during the storm, so before she could head out, she had to get a jump from a neighbor.


She blamed the city for not preparing better.

“Why aren’t they up to par? They’re building and building. We can’t even flush, and it stinks,” Gonzalez said.

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Photos of Hurricane Beryl’s landfall and damage to Texas coast

Residents of Houston seniors building swelter without power or help (1)Residents of Houston seniors building swelter without power or help (2)

After leaving a trail of destruction across the eastern Caribbean, Beryl wreaked havoc on Texas. See more photos here.

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By Tuesday afternoon, the Gallery Furniture shelter had served 4,000 people since Beryl hit Monday, including some who were rescued using the store’s high-water vehicle, recounted owner Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale. He shared messages on his cellphone from more people still stranded at home. One was an 80-year-old grandmother; another, a 12-year-old girl who is bedridden and dependent on oxygen and a feeding tube.

“Getting power back: That’s a major issue,” McIngvale said. “We’ve had two or three [individuals] out here charging their oxygen machines.”

Ronny Linley, 67, arrived Tuesday with his oxygen machine, found a spot on the showroom floor where he could plug in the device, grabbed a chair and slipped on his mask. A Navy veteran and retired truck driver, he uses the machine every four hours for COPD. His home in the city’s Greenspoint area still had no electricity.

“I’m very worried for him,” said girlfriend Maria Jones, 65, who had driven him to the store. “He’s like a fish without his oxygen — he can’t breathe.”

Linley was already watching the clock. Gallery Furniture’s day shelter would close at 8 p.m., and he wasn’t sure where to go after that, except home.

“I guess we have to suffer,” he said.

Residents of Houston seniors building swelter without power or help (2024)


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