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Houston weather: Hurricane-force wind gusts kills 7, smashes skyscrapers and cuts power to hundreds of thousands


Houston weather: Hurricane-force wind gusts kills 7, smashes skyscrapers and cuts power to hundreds of thousands


At least seven people were killed in the Houston area on Thursday as a destructive complex of storms with winds up to 100 mph tore through the area, triggering power outages that could stretch on for weeks amid soaring temperatures.

The death toll rose Friday evening from the four fatalities officials reported earlier in the day.

More than 900,000 homes and businesses lost power in Houston’s Harris County during the peak of the storm’s violent winds, and nearly 600,000 remained in the dark Friday evening, according to

“For some folks, the luckier ones, (power restoration) might be days, not hours. For many, many people, it’s going to be weeks and not days,” Harris County Judge Lina Hildago said in a Friday news briefing.

Hidalgo said the weeks-long restoration timeframe was for homes and businesses tied into the 10 steel power transmission towers downed in the state, seven of which were in Harris County.

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It’s unclear which areas are tied into the transmission lines, she said.

It’s a troubling timeframe for power restoration, especially as high temperatures reach the 90s through the weekend and beyond. The heat index, which measures what the body actually feels, could hit the triple-digits by next week, raising health risks from weather’s deadliest threat. The City of Houston planned to activate cooling centers for residents on Friday, officials said in a news release.

Fallen trees appear to have caused two of the reported deaths, and a crane accident caused another, Houston Fire Department Chief Samuel Peña said in a news conference.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office on Friday evening identified three others in the county who died from the storm. One man collapsed while attempting to move a downed electrical pole, and a woman died after lightning struck the trailer she was inside and caused a fire, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said in a post on X Friday.

Gonzales said another victim who had lost power reportedly went out to his truck to plug in his oxygen tank. “He was found unresponsive this morning and pronounced deceased at the scene,” the sheriff said Friday, adding the additional deaths occurred in unincorporated Harris County.

Houston Mayor John Whitmire, who signed a local state of disaster declaration for the city on Friday, toured the downtown area and said the “devastation is significant.”

“We urge everyone to stay away from the area for your safety and to allow public works personnel to do their vital jobs,” Whitmire said.

Additional powerful, drenching storms could plague parts of the Gulf Coast Friday.

Here’s the latest on Friday’s storms and destruction in Texas and other parts of the South:

Thursday’s severe weather classified as derecho: The weather service classified the line of severe storms that moved through Texas and Louisiana as a derecho, a potentially destructive weather event characterized by widespread wind damage associated with a long-lived line of thunderstorms. Derechos have consistent wind gusts of 58 mph or greater along a path of at least 400 miles, along with several well-separated wind gusts of greater than 75 mph. The Storm Prediction Center and several National Weather Service offices made the determination based on the path’s length and intensity.

Most of Houston’s traffic lights are down: Traffic lights across the city are out and debris from damaged buildings and toppled trees are covering roadways, making driving conditions dangerous. “Downtown is a mess. It’s dangerous due to the glass and the lack of traffic lights. So stay at home,” Mayor Whitmire said Thursday.

Hurricane-force wind gusts reported in Texas and Louisiana: Wind speeds reached as high as 100 mph in downtown Houston, a National Weather Service storm damage survey crew determined Friday. Wind gusts of 74 to 78 mph were measured just east of the Houston metro Thursday evening, according to the weather service. The National Weather Service in New Orleans reported wind gusts as strong as 84 mph around the city.

Major flooding leads to water rescues: There were up to 20 water rescues after residents in Bryan, Texas, drove into the floodwaters, police spokesperson Seth Waller said. Nearby in College Station, heavy rain Thursday flooded a park, videos shared with CNN showed. Roads flooded in several Texas counties including Bosque, Bell, McLennan and Falls. Waterlogged parts of Texas and Louisiana recorded widespread rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches in just a few hours late Thursday and early Friday morning.

Spate of storms exhausts Texas: The Lone Star State has been in the bull’s-eye of seemingly unrelenting rounds of flooding downpours. Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday requested a presidential disaster declaration for areas impacted by the onslaught of severe weather and flooding, citing “extensive damage caused by these severe storms, historic river flooding, and tornadoes” that began on April 26.

David J. Phillip/AP

A car crushed by bricks from a fallen building wall sits in a downtown parking lot after a severe thunderstorm passed through Thursday in Houston.

Houston’s mayor advised residents to stay off the roads and stay at home because of widespread damage to the area.

David J. Phillip/AP

Workers clean up broken glass inside a damaged downtown restaurant after a severe thunderstorm Thursday in Houston.

“Many roads are impassable due to downed power lines, debris, and fallen trees,” Mayor Whitmire’s office said in a statement Thursday evening.

The storm was so powerful it blew out the windows of buildings in downtown Houston, littering the area with glass as traffic lights went dark. Shoppers at a Costco in Houston used their phones as the only source of light as they huddled inside the store when the power went out, with employees closing the doors to block out the rain and winds.

The violent storm conditions partially collapsed a nightclub and partially ripped roofing off the downtown Hyatt Regency, showering the hotel lobby with rain and debris, according to witness video. CenterPoint Energy says its skyscraper in downtown Houston sustained damage from the storm, according to a spokesperson.

David J. Phillip/AP

Fallen bricks from the wall of building cover a Houston parking lot in the aftermath of a severe thunderstorm on Thursday.

The Houston Independent School District announced campuses will be closed on Friday and reopen Monday “due to widespread damage across Houston.” More than a dozen Houston-area school districts also announced they would close Friday, including Aldine Independent School District, Channelview Independent School District and Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District.

Damaging, soaking storms were ongoing in parts of the Gulf Coast Friday morning following Thursday night’s violent weather. Additional storms will usher in renewed threats later Friday.

A Level 2 of 5 risk of severe thunderstorms is in place from southern Louisiana to parts of Georgia and Florida. Any of these storms could produce damaging wind gusts, hail and even a tornado.

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Storms will also unload gushing rainfall. A Level 3 of 4 risk of flooding rainfall is in place for portions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The heaviest rain late Friday will likely fall during the overnight hours.

Storms could produce rainfall rates of 2 to 3 inches per hour and quickly restart or worsen any ongoing flooding.

Widespread rainfall totals of 2 to 6 inches are expected from Texas to Georgia through Saturday morning. A few spots caught under multiple torrential storms may pick up 8 inches or more of rain. Some areas could record close to a foot of rain in about 48 hours.

CNN’s Monica Garrett, Eric Zerkel and Andy Rose contributed to this report.

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