CenterPoint power surge fries electronics, appliances in Richmond-area homes, residents say

Just shows how our infrastructure work can dramatically affect folks downstream.


St. John Barned-Smith covers public safety and major breaking news for the Houston Chronicle. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Send tips to

via News

Patrick Morrissey was on his way home from work when his wife, Claudia, called.

The Internet wasn’t working, she said. The lights weren’t either. And the smell of smoke filled the air.

Morrissey, a 29-year-old Houston police officer, rushed to his Richmond-area home, where he and his wife and neighbors found themselves in a Kafka-esque hell Tuesday as a power surge filled their homes with smoke and destroyed tens of thousands of dollars worth of appliances.

Upstairs, they found one of their surge protectors.

“It was burnt to a crisp,” Morrissey said.

They called CenterPoint, he said. An operator there said they’d send out an electrician, but it would cost them $50 if it was their fault.

His wife checked the kitchen.

The refrigerator was melting, she yelled. Sure enough, the plastic inside was starting to melt.

 “Send the electrician,” he said.

Then a neighbor came over. His appliances were all destroyed, he said. And his circuit breaker had tripped.

They called a third neighbor, who gave them a gate code to check on his home. It too, was full of smoke, and his appliances were trashed.

“His washer caught on fire,” Morrissey said. “You can see where the washer melted inside.”

A fire crew from the Community Volunteer Fire Department told him a CenterPoint transformer appeared to have blown.

Finally, about 5 p.m., a CenterPoint crew showed up, he said. They had been working on a faulty transmission box nearby, and disconnected three houses.

“What about our homes??” a baffled Morrissey said he asked. “How come no one came and told us anything?”

The crew wouldn’t provide their names, and told him he needed file a claim, he said.

He called CenterPoint seeking more information, and got nowhere, he said.

“They left us high and dry five days before Christmas,” said Ryan Grantham, the neighbor whose clothes-washer caught on fire.

Grantham said his dog had to be rescued by neighbors from his smoke-filled home.

“No one has a supervisor we can call,” he said. “CenterPoint has left six families homeless due to their equipment failure.”

CenterPoint did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Chronicle.

Ali Vijdan, 32, who lives two doors down, was home sick from his job as a software engineer when the lights went off. Like Morrissey, he smelled smoke.

“It was unbearable,” said Vijdan, who lives in the house with his two siblings, mother and father. On Tuesday, he was trying to figure out where to take his family — particularly his father, who had a heart condition and couldn’t stay in the smoky home.

He’d called CenterPoint, only to be transferred repeatedly, and no one seemed to be able to tell him anything, he said.

“My spirits were high for Christmas but it’s going to be rough this year,” he said.

St. John Barned-Smith covers public safety and major breaking news for the Houston Chronicle. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Send tips to
via News

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