Houston storms: At least 4 dead, 900,000 homes and businesses without power

HOUSTON (AP) — Power outages are expected in parts of Houston after thunderstorms with hurricane-force winds knocked out power to nearly 1 million homes and businesses, an official said Friday.

“We need to talk about this disaster in weeks, not days,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the county’s top elected official, said at a news conference.

Houston Mayor John Whitmire said Thursday’s storms in Harris County, which includes Houston, left four people dead and five others dead. Officials warned residents that it would be a slow cleanup and some residents could be without power for extended days.

“It’s severe, it’s intense, it’s quick and most Houstonians don’t have time to get themselves out of harm’s way,” Whitmire said.

He warned looters that at least 2,500 traffic lights were out and 50 state troopers had been dispatched to the area to prevent looting.

The widespread destruction brought much of Houston to a standstill as crews raced to restore power and clear uprooted trees and debris. School districts in the Houston area canceled classes for more than 400,000 students and closed government offices. City officials urged people to stay off roads, many of which are flooded or lined with downed power lines and malfunctioning traffic lights.

Whitmire called downtown “a mess” on Thursday and told people not to go to work on Friday unless they are considered essential workers.

Officials said at least two of the deaths were caused by falling trees and another by a crane blown over by strong winds. Whitmire said wind gusts reached 100 mph (160 kph) “with some twisting.” Whitmire said the powerful winds were reminiscent of Hurricane Ike, which hit the city in 2008.

Rapper Trey Tha Truth, in yellow, cuts down on a tree that fell on his car as a result of severe thunderstorms that moved through downtown, Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Hundreds of windows were broken in downtown hotels and office buildings, and glass littered the streets below. Some areas are impassable due to fallen trees, power lines and broken glass. The government sent public security officials to secure the area.

The storms weren’t over Friday. Scattered, severe thunderstorms with tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds are possible in Gulf Coast states. The National Weather Service says heavy to heavy rain is possible for eastern Louisiana and central Alabama. Flood watches and warnings remained in place Friday for Houston and areas to the east.

Powerful storms also hit neighboring Louisiana on Thursday and left more than 215,000 customers without power. More than 100,000 Entergy Louisiana customers in the New Orleans area lost power. NOLA.com reported.

The Storm Prediction Center’s website showed a report of a tornado in Convent, Louisiana, about 55 miles (89 kilometers) from New Orleans, with several reports of downed trees and power poles.

A suspected tornado hit the Romeville area of ​​St. James Parish Thursday night, damaging some homes and downing trees, but no injuries or fatalities were reported, parish officials said in a social media post Friday morning.

Wind gusts reached 84 mph (135 kph) at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport and 82 mph (132 kph) at New Orleans Lakefront Airport, said Tim Erickson, a meteorologist with the New Orleans and Baton Rouge Weather Service office.

The New Orleans and Baton Rouge office issued flash flood warnings through Saturday.

In Houston, the retractable roof at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros, was closed due to the storm. But the wind was still strong It rained inside the stadium. Puddles formed on the outfield warning track, but the game against the Oakland Athletics was still played.

A damaged building is shown as a result of severe thunderstorms that moved through downtown Houston, Thursday, May 16, 2024.  (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

A damaged building is shown as a result of severe thunderstorms that moved through downtown Houston, Thursday, May 16, 2024. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Flights were briefly grounded at Houston’s two major airports. Sustained winds of 60 mph (96 km/h) were recorded at Bush Intercontinental Airport.

According to Poweroutage.us, outage numbers were slowly improving Friday morning, with about 773,000 in Texas and 97,000 in Louisiana. At one point, Texas had more than 900,000 outages.

Centerpoint Energy warned customers in the Houston area to “be prepared for extended weather-related power outages.”

Troubles spread to the city’s suburbs, with emergency officials in neighboring Montgomery County describing damage to transmission lines as “catastrophic” and warning that power could be out for days.

Broken glass covers the street outside the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Houston, Thursday, May 16, 2024, after a severe thunderstorm hit Houston.  (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Broken glass covers the street outside the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Houston, Thursday, May 16, 2024, after a severe thunderstorm hit Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Houston police officers remove a fallen tree at Prairie and Travis Streets downtown after heavy thunderstorms Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Houston.  (Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Houston police officers remove a fallen tree at Prairie and Travis Streets downtown after heavy thunderstorms Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Houston. (Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via AP)

A heavy storm hit the Houston area In the first week of MayHigh water led to several rescues, including some from the roofs of flooded homes.

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The story has been updated to correct that not only the Houston Independent School District, but school districts throughout the Houston area canceled classes on Friday.

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Bauman reported from Bellingham, Washington and Weber from Los Angeles. Associated Press reporters Sarah Brumfield in Silver City, Maryland, and Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire contributed to htis story.

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