Houston weather: Hurricane-force wind gusts kill 4, shatter skyscrapers and cut power to hundreds of thousands


Power outages could last weeks in the Houston area amid rising temperatures after a set of destructive storms with winds of up to 100 mph ravaged the region Thursday, killing at least four people and collapsing critical electrical infrastructure.

More than 900,000 homes and businesses lost power in Houston’s Harris County at the height of the storm’s high winds, and more than 650,000 remained in the dark as of Friday afternoon, according to

“For some people, the lucky ones, (power restoration) could take days, not hours. For many, many people, it’s going to take weeks, not days,” Harris County Judge Lina Hildago said during a press briefing Friday.

Hidalgo said the weeks-long restoration delay affects homes and businesses tied to the 10 downed steel electricity transmission towers in the state, including seven in Harris County.

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It’s not clear which areas are connected to transmission lines, she said.

This is a worrying time for power restoration, especially as high temperatures reach the 90s over the weekend and beyond. The heat index, which measures how the body actually feels, could reach triple digits by next week, increasing health risks from the deadliest weather threat.

At least four people died in the severe weather that hit Houston, mayoral spokesperson Mary Benton told CNN. Fallen trees appear to have caused two of the deaths, and a crane accident caused another, Houston Fire Department Chief Samuel Peña said at a news conference.

A possible fifth storm-related death is under investigation, Houston Mayor John Whitmire said Friday.

More powerful and devastating storms could hit parts of the Gulf Coast on Friday.

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

Most of Houston’s traffic lights are out: Traffic lights throughout the city are out and debris from damaged buildings and toppled trees covers the roads, making driving conditions hazardous. “The city center is a mess. It is dangerous because of the windows and lack of traffic lights. So stay home,” Mayor Whitmire said Thursday.

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

Major flooding leads to water rescues: There were as many as 20 water rescues after residents of Bryan, Texas, found themselves in floodwaters, police spokesman Seth Waller said. Near College Station, heavy rain flooded a park Thursday, videos shared with CNN showed. Roads were flooded in several Texas counties, including Bosque, Bell, McLennan and Falls. Waterlogged areas of Texas and Louisiana saw widespread rainfall of 2 to 4 inches in just a few hours Thursday night and early Friday morning.

A wave of storms exhausts Texas: The Lone Star State has been in the thick of seemingly incessant waves of torrential rain. Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday requested a presidential disaster declaration for areas affected by onslaughts of severe weather and flooding, citing “the significant damage caused by these severe storms, historic river flooding and tornadoes” that have started on April 26.

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A car crushed by the bricks of a fallen building wall sits in a downtown parking lot after a severe thunderstorm hit Houston Thursday.

Houston’s mayor advised residents to stay off the roads and stay home due to widespread damage in the area.

David J. Phillip/AP

Workers clean up broken windows inside a damaged downtown restaurant after a severe storm 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 that it blew out windows of buildings in downtown Houston, littering the area with glass as traffic lights went out. 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 wind.

The violent storms partially collapsed a nightclub and partially tore off the roof of the downtown Hyatt Regency, flooding the hotel lobby with rain and debris, according to witness video. CenterPoint Energy says its downtown Houston skyscraper suffered storm damage, according to a spokesperson.

David J. Phillip/AP

Bricks fallen from the wall of a building cover a Houston parking lot following a severe storm Thursday.

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

Damaging and damaging storms continued across parts of the Gulf Coast Friday morning, following Thursday evening’s severe weather. Additional storms will bring new 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 devastating wind gusts, hail and even a tornado.

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The storms will also dump torrential rain. A Level 3 of 4 flood risk is in place for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The heaviest rain Friday evening will likely fall overnight.

The storms could produce precipitation of 2 to 3 inches per hour and quickly restart or worsen ongoing flooding.

Rainfall totals of 2 to 6 inches are expected from Texas to Georgia through Saturday morning. Some areas affected by multiple torrential storms may receive 8 inches or more of rain. Some areas could see nearly a foot of rain in about 48 hours.

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