National

Storms batter Houston, killing 4, causing widespread damage

May 18, 2024

Houston [US], May 18: Strong storms on Thursday night battered the Houston area, the largest city in the U.S. state of Texas, claiming at least four lives while causing widespread power outage, property damage, and chaos across the city, Houston Mayor John Whitmire confirmed.
"We have a storm with 100 mph winds, the equivalent of Hurricane Ike, considerable damage downtown," the mayor said at a news briefing on Thursday night, referring to the category 2 hurricane that made landfall near Houston in 2008, wreaking havoc on infrastructure and agriculture.
Among the four deaths, at least two were related to fallen trees, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena told reporters. Another death was caused by a "crane that was blown over by the wind."
The storms caused massive damage across the areas. Trees were uprooted, powerlines knocked down, and streets flooded in many neighborhoods across Houston and its suburbs. Several office buildings in downtown Houston lost windows.
Several hundreds of schools in the Houston area have canceled all classes for Friday. The Houston Independent School District (HISD), the largest one in Texas, announced all schools would be closed Friday.
"Due to the widespread damage across Houston, HISD has coordinated with the city of Houston and is closing all campuses Friday, May 17," the district said in a statement. "Schools will reopen Monday, May 20."
"There are trees across roadways across Houston," Whitmire said, "Glass all over the streets downtown, traffic lights are out."
The mayor urged residents to "stay at home," adding that the city was working through a "backlog" of 911 emergency calls, many of them reportedly about a gas leak or downed wires.
A portion of a building collapsed amid the severe weather in Houston, according to local media reports.
"Take shelter now if you're in the path of this storm. Head to the lowest floor!" Houston's National Weather Service office warned on social media earlier on Thursday.
Multiple counties overlapping the Houston area issued flash floods and severe thunderstorm warnings in the evening.
As of 11:40 pm local time (1640 GMT), nearly 924,000 customers were without power in Texas, according to utility tracker PowerOutage.us. Of that, more than 800,000 customers lost power in and around Harris County, which contains much of Houston.
"There are currently widespread outages" in the Houston area, said Logan Anderson, the spokesperson of the power company CenterPoint Energy, "We won't know the extent of the damage to our system until the storm is through."
"I ask everyone to be patient, look out for your neighbors," the Houston mayor said. "It will take 24 hours for a lot of this power to be restored, some will require 48 hours."
Earlier this month, multiple rounds of thunderstorms caused deadly flooding across eastern Texas, including the Houston area, forcing evacuations and school closures.
Source: Xinhua

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