Some in Houston facing no power for weeks after storms cause widespread damage, killing at least 4

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Power outages could last weeks in parts of Houston, an official warned Friday, after thunderstorms with hurricane-force winds tore through the city, knocking out electricity to nearly 1 million homes and businesses in the region, blowing out windows on downtown high rises and flipping vehicles.The National Weather Service said it confirmed a tornado with peak winds of 110 mph touched down near the northwest Houston suburb of Cyprus in Harris County.Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the county’s top elected official, said crews were still trying to determine the extent of the damage and the number of casualties from Thursday’s storms. Houston Mayor John Whitmire said four people, and possibly five, had died.“It was fierce. It was intense. It was quick, and most Houstonians didn’t have time to place themselves out of harm’s way,” Whitmire said at a news conference.With multiple transmission towers down, Hidalgo urged patience. Thousands of utility workers were headed to the area, where power had already been restored to roughly 200,000 customers. Another 100,000 customers were without power in Louisiana, down from a peak of 215,000.“We are going to have to talk about this disaster in weeks, not days,” Hidalgo said.She said she had heard “horror stories of just terror and powerlessness” as the storm came through. The weather service also reported straight-line winds of up to 100 mph in downtown Houston and the suburbs of Baytown and Galena Park.Video above: Texas storm damage building windows in downtown HoustonNoelle Delgado’s heart sank as she pulled up Thursday night to Houston Pets Alive, the animal rescue organization where she is executive director. The dogs and cats — more than 30 in all — were uninjured, but the awning had been ripped off, the sign was mangled and water was leaking inside. With power expected to be out for some time and temperatures forecast to climb into the 90s on Saturday, she hoped to find foster homes for the animals.“I could definitely tell that this storm was a little different,” she said. “It felt terrifying.”Yesenia Guzmán, 52, worried whether she would get paid with the power still out at the restaurant where she works in the Houston suburb of Katy.“We don’t really know what’s going to happen,” she said.The widespread destruction brought much of Houston to a standstill. Trees, debris and shattered glass littered the streets. One building’s wall was ripped off.School districts in the Houston area canceled classes for more than 400,000 students and government offices were closed. City officials urged people to avoid downtown and stay off roads, many of which were flooded or lined with downed power lines and malfunctioning traffic lights.Whitmire said at least 2,500 traffic lights were out. He also warned would-be looters that “police are out in force, including 50 state troopers sent to the area to prevent looting.”At least two of the deaths were caused by falling trees and another happened when a crane blew over in strong winds, officials said.Video above: Massive tree falls on vehicle during Houston stormThe problems extended to the city’s suburbs, with emergency officials in neighboring Montgomery County describing the damage to transmission lines as “catastrophic.”The storms also weren’t over Friday. Gulf Coast states could experience scattered, severe thunderstorms with tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds. Heavy to excessive rainfall is possible for eastern Louisiana into central Alabama, the National Weather Service said. Flood watches and warnings remained Friday for Houston and areas to the east.The Storm Prediction Center’s website showed a report of a tornado in Convent, Louisiana, about 55 miles from New Orleans, with multiple reports of trees and power poles down.A suspected tornado hit the Romeville area of St. James Parish on Thursday night with some homes impacted and trees down, but no injuries or fatalities had been reported, parish officials said in a social media post on Friday morning.There were wind gusts of 84 mph at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport and 82 mph at New Orleans Lakefront Airport, according to Tim Erickson, a meteorologist at the weather service’s office for New Orleans and Baton Rouge.The office for New Orleans and Baton Rouge issued a flash flood warning through Saturday.Heavy storms slammed the Houston area during the first week of May, leading to numerous high-water rescues, including some from the rooftops of flooded homes.___ Associated Press reporters Jamie Stengle in Dallas and Valerie Gonzalez in McAllen contributed.

Power outages could last weeks in parts of Houston, an official warned Friday, after thunderstorms with hurricane-force winds tore through the city, knocking out electricity to nearly 1 million homes and businesses in the region, blowing out windows on downtown high rises and flipping vehicles.

The National Weather Service said it confirmed a tornado with peak winds of 110 mph touched down near the northwest Houston suburb of Cyprus in Harris County.

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Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the county’s top elected official, said crews were still trying to determine the extent of the damage and the number of casualties from Thursday’s storms. Houston Mayor John Whitmire said four people, and possibly five, had died.

“It was fierce. It was intense. It was quick, and most Houstonians didn’t have time to place themselves out of harm’s way,” Whitmire said at a news conference.

With multiple transmission towers down, Hidalgo urged patience. Thousands of utility workers were headed to the area, where power had already been restored to roughly 200,000 customers. Another 100,000 customers were without power in Louisiana, down from a peak of 215,000.

“We are going to have to talk about this disaster in weeks, not days,” Hidalgo said.

She said she had heard “horror stories of just terror and powerlessness” as the storm came through. The weather service also reported straight-line winds of up to 100 mph in downtown Houston and the suburbs of Baytown and Galena Park.

Video above: Texas storm damage building windows in downtown Houston

Noelle Delgado’s heart sank as she pulled up Thursday night to Houston Pets Alive, the animal rescue organization where she is executive director. The dogs and cats — more than 30 in all — were uninjured, but the awning had been ripped off, the sign was mangled and water was leaking inside. With power expected to be out for some time and temperatures forecast to climb into the 90s on Saturday, she hoped to find foster homes for the animals.

“I could definitely tell that this storm was a little different,” she said. “It felt terrifying.”

Yesenia Guzmán, 52, worried whether she would get paid with the power still out at the restaurant where she works in the Houston suburb of Katy.

“We don’t really know what’s going to happen,” she said.

The widespread destruction brought much of Houston to a standstill. Trees, debris and shattered glass littered the streets. One building’s wall was ripped off.

School districts in the Houston area canceled classes for more than 400,000 students and government offices were closed. City officials urged people to avoid downtown and stay off roads, many of which were flooded or lined with downed power lines and malfunctioning traffic lights.

Whitmire said at least 2,500 traffic lights were out. He also warned would-be looters that “police are out in force, including 50 state troopers sent to the area to prevent looting.”

At least two of the deaths were caused by falling trees and another happened when a crane blew over in strong winds, officials said.

Video above: Massive tree falls on vehicle during Houston storm

The problems extended to the city’s suburbs, with emergency officials in neighboring Montgomery County describing the damage to transmission lines as “catastrophic.”

The storms also weren’t over Friday. Gulf Coast states could experience scattered, severe thunderstorms with tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds. Heavy to excessive rainfall is possible for eastern Louisiana into central Alabama, the National Weather Service said. Flood watches and warnings remained Friday for Houston and areas to the east.

The Storm Prediction Center’s website showed a report of a tornado in Convent, Louisiana, about 55 miles from New Orleans, with multiple reports of trees and power poles down.

A suspected tornado hit the Romeville area of St. James Parish on Thursday night with some homes impacted and trees down, but no injuries or fatalities had been reported, parish officials said in a social media post on Friday morning.

There were wind gusts of 84 mph at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport and 82 mph at New Orleans Lakefront Airport, according to Tim Erickson, a meteorologist at the weather service’s office for New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

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

Heavy storms slammed the Houston area during the first week of May, leading to numerous high-water rescues, including some from the rooftops of flooded homes.

___

Associated Press reporters Jamie Stengle in Dallas and Valerie Gonzalez in McAllen contributed.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.