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Officials say Houston residents may not have power back for weeks following deadly storms

At least four people were killed as a result of the storms that knocked out power lines, downed trees and tore through buildings.
Severe Weather Texas
Posted at 5:23 AM, May 17, 2024

Texas officials say residents in Houston may not have power back for weeks after deadly thunderstorms slammed the region Thursday.

Houston Mayor John Whitmire said the storm was known to have killed four people and may have killed a fifth person. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the search and tally of casualties was ongoing.

The storms brought hurricane-force winds of up to 100mph in parts of the city, where they shattered windows, flipped vehicles and knocked out power for close to 1 million customers.

The winds at times reached the same strength as Hurricane Ike when it hit Houston in 2008. A tornado also tore through an area of Harris County, leaving behind a path of destruction.

Hidalgo provided an update to community members in a press conference Friday, but said at this time the city is still working to gather all the facts.

“There’s a lot we know and a lot we don’t. Please give us until tomorrow — 24 hours — for more certainty,” said Hidalgo.

Hidalgo said the city does not yet know the extent of damages, updated fatality or injury numbers or when power will be back. It will take an entire day for CenterPoint Energy, which services the area, just to assess power damages.

At the peak, over 900,000 residents lost power, mostly in Harris County, and that number is still well over 700,000 as of Friday afternoon, Hidalgo said. Ten transmission lines were down, eight of which were for Harris County.

Hidalgo asked for patience as she suggested that the outages will not be a quick fix.

“We are going to have to talk about this disaster for weeks, not days,” she said. “For some folks, the luckier ones, it might be days, not hours.”

“If you are tied into the transmission lines that fell — that can take weeks to restore,” Hidalgo said.

A storm brought down transmission power lines in Cypress, Texas.
A storm brought down transmission power lines in Cypress, Texas.

While debris and trees have been cleaned up from major highways, that is not the case for residential roads and neighborhoods. If residents see any downed trees, they are urged to call 311 to report them or any other road blockages.

Residents are also being warned about potential gas leaks.

“If you smell gas, the first thing you need to do is get out,” Hidalgo said. Then, call 1 (800) 752-8036 to report it.

Sixteen Harris County libraries will be open Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. They will act as cooling centers, offer activities for kids, access to computers and places people can charge their phones.

In a press conference late Thursday, Houston Mayor John Whitmire had urged residents not to venture out.

“Stay at home tonight. Don’t go to work tomorrow unless you’re an essential worker,” Whitmire said. “Stay at home, take care of your children.”

Debris fills the feeder road near Interstate 10 and Interstate 45 near downtown Houston after severe storms passed through the area.
Debris fills the feeder road near Interstate 10 and Interstate 45 near downtown Houston after severe storms passed through the area.

Schools in the Houston Independent School District were closed Friday.

Whitmire also said most traffic lights were out.

Power was also knocked out in neighboring areas of Louisiana. Earlier Friday, 160,000 residents reported outages in the state, according to PowerOutage.us. Now that number is just above 70,000.

Storms are expected to move into Mississippi and Alabama by Saturday morning.