Four dead and almost one million without power as severe storm rips through Texas

Transmission power lines are down near the Grand Parkway and West Road after a storm   (AP)
Transmission power lines are down near the Grand Parkway and West Road after a storm (AP)

At least four people have died after a powerful storm struck Texas, bringing devastating winds that blew off windows, downed trees and left almost a million without power.

The fast-moving storm, the second to hit Houston this month, ripped through southeastern Texas on Thursday, bringing wind gusts of up to 160 kmph (100mph), equivalent to those brought by Hurricane Ike, which killed almost 200 people in 2008.

The National Weather Service warned of “dangerous and life-threatening flash flooding” in eastern Texas and western Louisiana.

The storm flooded roads and downed power lines and trees, leaving almost a million residents in the dark in Houston and nearby areas.

Officials urged residents to keep off roads, as many were impassable and traffic lights were expected to be out for much of the night.

“Stay at home tonight, do not go to work tomorrow, unless you’re an essential worker. Stay home, take care of your children,” Houston mayor John Whitmire said in an evening briefing.

“Our first responders will be working around the clock.”

The mayor confirmed four people died in the storm. At least two of the deaths were caused by falling trees, and another happened when a crane blew over in strong winds, officials said.

Photos and videos on social media showed extensive damage to houses and buildings. Hundreds of windows were shattered at downtown hotels and office buildings, the Associated Press reported, with glass littering the streets below.

In downtown Houston, a guest at the Hyatt Regency shared a video of water pouring inside after wind blew out the windows.

“Downtown is a mess,” Mr Whitmire said.

The mayor said there was a backlog of 911 calls that first responders were working through, while the state was sending Department of Public Safety officers to secure the area.

The Houston Independent School District, the largest public school system in Texas, said it was cancelling classes on Friday.

About 855,000 customers were without electricity in and around Harris County, which contains Houston, according to

In extended suburban areas, emergency officials said the damage to transmission lines was “catastrophic”, warning that power could be impacted for several days. Flights were briefly grounded at Houston‘s two major airports, the AP reported. Sustained winds topping 60 mph (96 kph) were recorded at Bush Intercontinental Airport.

The storm system moved through swiftly, but flood watches and warnings remained for Houston and areas to the east. Severe thunderstorm warnings were issued for large swaths of Louisiana.

This is the second storm to lash Texas this month. In the first week of May, heavy storms slammed the region, leading to numerous high-water rescues, including some from the rooftops of flooded homes.

Earlier torrential rains, flooding and tornadoes also brought the area to a halt in April.