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As state and federal leaders stepped up to help Gulf Coast recover from Hurricane Harvey, which some have dubbed the most costly natural disaster in US history, the area's utilities made progress Tuesday in restoring electricity service for customers.

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday expanded the number of counties in the Hurricane Harvey disaster area to 43 and had a request for federal Community Disaster Loan assistance approved.

Abbott called the loan assistance, approved by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency, "critical to providing cities with the resources and flexibility to recover while still providing important services to the Texans in their communities."

As of about 3 pm CDT (2000 GMT) Tuesday, the National Weather Service's Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service estimated it had 22 gauges at various stages of flood levels across southeast Texas and the western half of Louisiana.

Earlier Tuesday, the Harris County Flood Control District, which serves Houston and its suburbs in Harris County, estimated that for a substantial period of the storm's deluge of the area, about 1,300 square miles of the county's 1,800 square miles was covered by up to 18 inches of water.



The HCFCD also provided a "conservative estimate" of 136,000 of the county's physical structures -- houses and buildings -- were flooded, equal to about 10% of the county's total.

At around 3 pm CDT, Texas utilities in areas hit by the hurricane reported they still had about 53,000 customers without service, down from about 54,000 as of 10 am CDT.


RESTORATION EFFORTS


Entergy Texas' utility service area had the second-largest number of customers without power as of 3 pm CDT at about 14,000, compared with about 15,500 as of 10 am CDT.

Harvey cut off service to about 192,000 Entergy Texas customers at some point during and after the storm, the company said.

Earlier Tuesday, Entergy Texas said several mobile substations had arrived in areas where five damaged substations cannot be restored to service quickly enough. Two are in Beaumont, Texas, and one each is being located in Vidor, Rose City and an unincorporated area of Hardin County, Texas.

"Special reconfigurations to properly connect the mobile substations to the electrical grid are ongoing," Entergy Texas said. "While customers will see their power restored, temporary disruptions in electrical service are possible during continued restoration activities over the next few weeks."


OUTAGES AND LOAD DIFFERENCES


As of about 3 pm CDT Tuesday, Texas utilities' outage maps showed about 53,000 customers without power, including the following:
  • AEP Texas (Corpus Christi, Texas area) - 33,439
  • Entergy Texas (East Texas) - 14,048
  • Centerpoint Energy (Houston-Galveston) - 4,976
  • Texas-New Mexico Power (suburban Houston area) - 221

At 3 pm CDT Tuesday, Electric Reliability Council of Texas data showed load in the storm-affected areas down about 5.5%, compared with demand at the same time on September 6, 2016.

The largest difference was in ERCOT's Coastal weather region -- around Houston and Galveston -- which was down 1,525 MW, or about 8.5%, from the same period a year ago.

The next largest difference was in its Southern region, which includes the Corpus Christi, Texas, area first hit by Harvey on August 25, which was down 540 MW, or about 10.6% from the same period on September 6, 2016.

In contrast, the South Central region, which includes Austin and San Antonio, Texas, showed an increase of 239 MW, or about 2.4%, compared with the same period a year ago.

--Mark Watson, markham.watson@spglobal.com

--Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, keiron.greenhalgh@spglobal.com