Storms Leave Four Dead, Extensive Damage in Houston

May 17, 2024
Residents are being urged to stay home as the storm damage is assessed and cleaned up.

Allyson Ackerman

Houston Chronicle


May 17—UPDATE 6:29 a.m.

More than 700,000 people in the Houston area remained without power Friday morning after destructive storms thrashed the region, taking down trees, blowing out windows Downtown and leaving at least four people dead, according to the mayor's office. All HISD campuses are closed Friday. and officials said crews were working to clear blocked roads.

—End of Update—

UPDATE 9:54 p.m.

Houston Mayor John Whitmire confirmed in a press conference Thursday night that four people have died in the severe storms that slammed Houston earlier in the evening.

Whitmire added that non-essential personnel should stay home Friday and estimated that it can take up to 48 hours for a resumption of power across the area. Houston ISD canceled all classes Friday, as well.

—End of Update—


UPDATE 7:47 p.m.

Severe storms powered through Houston Thursday evening with sustained winds of up to 62 mph at Bush Intercontinental Airport.

The National Weather Service in Houston said "Severe thunderstorms moving west of the Houston metro area have a history of producing damaging winds. Remain alert for a possible tornado. Take shelter if you are in the path of this storm!"

CenterPoint Energy is reporting more than 800,000 power outages in the Houston area as of 7:30 p.m.

KPRC reported that an apparent funnel cloud touched down in the Cypress area.

Service on all Metro rail lines and local bus routes has been suspended until further notice due to dangerous weather conditions. Metro advised customers to seek shelter until conditions improve and it's safe to travel.

Damage could be seen all over the Houston area.

Attendees at Houston ISD's budget meeting were left in the dark, as a power outage hit during the workshop.

The winds got so bad downtown, windows were blown out at CenterPoint headquarters.

—End of Update—


UPDATE 3:31 p.m.

A tornado watch is in effect for most of Southeast Texas. Damaging wind gusts, hail and flooding are all possibilities later Thursday afternoon and evening.

According to ABC 13's Travis Herzog, "Tropical moisture is surging behind a warm front and torrential downpours and street flooding are likely as it collides with the line of storms coming in from North Texas."

The following counties are included in the tornado watch until 10 p.m: Austin, Brazoria, Brazos, Burleson, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Grimes, Hardin, Harris, Houston, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Madison, Montgomery, Newton, Orange, Polk, San Jacinto, Trinity, Tyler, Walker, Waller, Washington, Wharton."

Those under a tornado watch need to be prepared to seek shelter immediately if a tornado warning is issued for your location.

—End of Update—


The NOAA's Weather Prediction Center has issued a rare "high risk" of flash flooding north of Houston, including areas like Huntsville, Livingston and Trinity. A flood watch is in effect Thursday afternoon and night along and north of I-10, including in Houston and Harris County.

The time frame of concern begins around 2-4 p.m. across northern Houston, the National Weather Service in Galveston said. The weather predictors say it's unclear when the heavy storms will begin to progress southward. "Despite the uncertainty, the boundary will eventually push southward towards the coast by the evening or overnight hours, taking its rain and thunderstorm activity with it," the NWS wrote in its forecaster's discussion.

"Before we get into Friday, let's take a moment to talk about the severe weather and flood risk today and tonight," the forecasters wrote. Areas north of I-10 have been upgraded to an enhanced risk (Level 3 of 5) of severe weather while areas farther south are in a slight risk (Level 2 of 5). Large hail and damaging wind gusts are the primary concern. However, there is some potential for tornadoes as well. Though widespread rainfall totals north of I-10 are "only" expected to be in the 2-4 inch range, soil moisture conditions coupled with the prospect of locally much heavier totals mean there's a moderate to high risk across our northern counties. "It may not take that much rain to result in flooding issues due to wet soils, especially across our Piney Woods counties," The NWS said.

Scattered storms remain possible Friday, especially south of Houston. The rain is expected to clear out late Friday and then stay away for several days.

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