Houston area residents hungry for power outage info turn to Whataburger app on map – Houston Public Media
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Houston area residents hungry for power outage info turn to Whataburger app on map – Houston Public Media

What is a Pearland burger?

Lucio Vasquez/Houston Public Media

Pictured is a Whataburger restaurant on Pearland Parkway in Houston, December 18, 2019.

Nearly 2 million Houston-area homes and businesses remained without power Tuesday afternoon, more than 24 hours after Hurricane Beryl ripped through the region and caused at least seven deaths as well as widespread flooding and infrastructure damage. It’s difficult for residents to tell which parts of the area are hardest hit by the outages because CenterPoint Energy’s online outage map has been down since May.

Enter Whataburger, a Texas institution that apparently helps fill the information gap and satisfy hunger.

A Houston-area social media user noticed Monday night that the Whataburger app could be serving as a de facto power outage map, as the app’s map feature shows which fast-food locations are open and which are closed — an orange “W” indicates an open restaurant, while a gray symbol indicates a closed one, likely due to a power outage since Whataburger locations are typically open 24 hours a day.

“Whataburger is a friend who is there for you through good times and bad,” Ed Nelson, the company’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled that the Whataburger app has helped Houstonians understand where power is in the city.”

CenterPoint, which provides electricity to much of the Houston area, reported more than 2.2 million outages at the height of Monday’s storm. The company said it expected to restore power to about 1 million of those customers by the end of the day Wednesday, compared with more than 1.6 million outages as of 2 p.m. Tuesday, according to its online outage tracker.

CenterPoint’s website also had a map of power outages dating back to May, when more than 900,000 customers lost power during a deadly windstorm. Entergy’s website has a map of power outages, which serves communities north and east of Houston and reported more than 211,000 outages as of 2 p.m. Tuesday.

RELATED: When will I have power after Hurricane Beryl?

The lack of a map on CenterPoint’s website has drawn criticism from Houston-area residents affected by Monday’s hurricane, including X user @BBQBryan.

“Whataburger is an app for tracking power outages, which is handy since the electricity provider doesn’t show a map,” the user wrote in a post Monday.

By Tuesday afternoon, the post had been viewed more than 6 million times and elicited a response from Whataburger’s account that read, “Well, there’s a use for our app we didn’t think of!”

RELATED: Cooling centers, shelters open across Houston area after Hurricane Beryl

Whataburger, founded in Corpus Christi in 1950 and now headquartered in San Antonio, operates 165 locations in the Houston area, according to a company spokesman. Its app showed about 30 of those restaurants were open as of 2 p.m. Tuesday, when mobile ordering was unavailable.

Some X users have noticed that locations marked with an orange “W” in the app are not actually open.

“Remember, the app should only be used as a general idea of ​​power availability,” Nelson said. “We encourage residents to call their local utilities to see if they are open and operational. Everyone, please stay safe if you leave your home.”

A company spokesman said the company will donate water to local shelters through the American Red Cross, and a Whataburger food truck will come to Houston next week to offer food to residents in need.