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Houston storms: At least 4 killed, power cut in 900,000 homes and businesses

HOUSTON (AP) — Fast-moving thunderstorms hit Southeast Texas for the second time this month, killing at least four people, blowing out windows of high-rise buildings, felling trees and knocking out power to more than 900,000 Houston homes and businesses. area.

Authorities urged residents to stay off the roads after Thursday’s storms, as many roads were impassable and traffic lights were out. The storm system moved in quickly, but flood watches and warnings remained Friday for Houston and areas to the east.

Rapper Trae tha Truth, in yellow, cuts fallen tree branches on top of a car following a severe thunderstorm that passed through downtown, Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Houston Mayor John Whitmire said four people died due to the severe weather. At least two of the deaths were caused by falling trees and another occurred when a crane toppled over in high winds, authorities said.

Streets in Houston were flooded and trees and power lines were down throughout the area. Whitmire said wind speeds reached 100 mph (160 km/h) “with a few tornadoes.” Whitmire said the powerful gusts were reminiscent of 2008’s Hurricane Ike, which hit the city.

“Stay home tonight. Do not go to work tomorrow unless you are an essential worker. Stay home, take care of your children,” Whitmire said during a briefing Thursday evening. “Our first responders will be working 24 hours a day.”

Gulf Coast states could experience scattered, severe thunderstorms with tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds. Heavy to excessive rain is possible Friday from eastern Louisiana to central Alabama, the National Weather Service said.

In Houston, hundreds of windows were broken in downtown hotels and office buildings, with glass littering the streets below, and the state sent Department of Public Safety agents to secure the area.

Fans head to Minute Maid Park as a severe thunderstorm hits before a baseball game between the Oakland Athletics and the Houston Astros, Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Houston.  (Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Fans head to Minute Maid Park as a severe thunderstorm hits before a baseball game between the Oakland Athletics and the Houston Astros, Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Houston. (Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via AP)

“Downtown is a mess,” Whitmire said, adding that there was a backlog of 911 calls that first responders were working on.

The severe storms also spread to neighboring Louisiana 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 website posted a report of a tornado in Convent, Louisiana, about 55 miles (89 kilometers) from New Orleans, with several reports of downed trees and utility poles.

There were wind gusts of 84 mph (135 kph) at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport and 82 mph (132 kph) at New Orleans Lakefront Airport, according to Tim Erickson, meteorologist with the weather service office in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

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

At Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros, the retractable roof was closed due to the storm. But the wind was so powerful that it he made the rain fall in the stadium. Puddles formed on the outfield warning track, but the game against the Oakland Athletics was still played.

A damaged building is shown following a severe thunderstorm that passed through downtown, Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Houston.  (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

A damaged building is shown following a severe thunderstorm that passed through downtown, Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Houston-area school districts canceled classes for more than 400,000 students Friday.

Flights were briefly grounded at Houston’s two main airports. Sustained winds exceeding 96 km/h were recorded at Bush Intercontinental Airport.

According to poweroutage.us, about 900,000 customers were without power in and around Harris County, which includes Houston. The county is home to more than 4.7 million residents.

CenterPoint Energy warned customers to “prepare for extended weather-related power outages.”

The problems spread to the city’s suburbs, with emergency officials in neighboring Montgomery County calling damage to transmission lines “catastrophic” and warning that power could be affected for several days.

Broken glass covers the street in front of the Hyatt Regency hotel downtown after a severe storm passed through, Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Houston.  (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Broken glass covers the street in front of the Hyatt Regency hotel downtown after a severe storm passed through, Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Houston police officers move a fallen tree off the downtown street at Prairie and Travis Street after a severe thunderstorm moved through Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Houston.  (Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Houston police officers move a fallen tree off the downtown street at Prairie and Travis Street after a severe thunderstorm moved through Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Houston. (Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Severe storms hit the Houston area during the first week of Mayleading to numerous rescues in the midst of floodwaters, some from the roofs of flooded houses.

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

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Baumann reported from Bellingham, Washington, and Weber from Los Angeles.

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News Source : apnews.com

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