NATIONAL NEWS

Hurricane-force wind gusts in Houston kill 4, smash skyscrapers and cut power to hundreds of thousands

May 17, 2024, 11:12 AM

Rapper Trae tha Truth, in yellow, cuts fallen tree limbs on top of a car in the aftermath of a seve...

Rapper Trae tha Truth, in yellow, cuts fallen tree limbs on top of a car in the aftermath of a severe thunderstorm that passed through Houston on Thursday. Mandatory Credit: David J. Phillip/AP via CNN Newsource

(CNN) — A destructive complex of storms with hurricane-force wind gusts tore through Texas and downtown Houston Thursday, leaving at least four dead and hundreds of thousands without power, before racing into Louisiana Friday where it caused even more damage.

At least four people died as the severe weather blasted through Houston, the mayor’s 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 in a news conference.

The violent winds smashed skyscraper windows, left a trail of damage to other buildings downtown, blocked roadways with fallen trees and debris and mangled power lines.

There were more than 650,000 homes and businesses without power in Houston’s Harris County early Friday, the majority of the nearly 800,000 without it across Texas. Another 150,000 in Louisiana were also without power, according to PowerOutage.us.

Hundreds of thousands of people could be left without reliable cooling options for days as temperatures soar into the 90s this weekend and beyond. Houston’s power provider warned residents to “be prepared for extended weather-related power outages” and the National Weather Service in Houston said outages “could extend for multiple days” because of “some of the damage to power/transmission lines.”

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:

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: The National Weather Service in New Orleans reported wind gusts as strong as 84 mph around the city. Wind gusts of 74 to 78 mph were measured just east of the Houston metro Thursday evening, according to the National Weather Service.

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.

Houston area bears brunt of destructive storms

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

“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.

Steel power transmission towers in Houston were also mangled by the storms, CNN affiliate KPRC reported. Along part of US Route 290, traffic was stopped as firefighters cleared downed lines draped over the roadway.

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.

More damaging storms possible Friday

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.

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 Friday will likely fall during two distinct periods: the morning hours and overnight.

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 meteorologist Monica Garrett contributed to this report.


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Hurricane-force wind gusts in Houston kill 4, smash skyscrapers and cut power to hundreds of thousands