Some power could take days to weeks to restore in Houston after destructive storm (2024)

HOUSTON — Streets in downtown Houston were littered with glass, insulation and twisted metal debris on Friday, after a violent thunderstorm complex ripped through the city and surrounding area the evening before. At least seven people were killed, and hundreds of thousands of customers were without power as officials warned it would take time to know the full extent of the toll.

The storm’s path could be traced by the damage it left behind: swaths of shattered windows in high rises and parked cars, trees ripped up by the roots or trunks bent almost horizontal.

“I’ve never seen windows blow out like this, even in a hurricane,” said Danny Treviño, 47, a Houston native out with his rescue dog, Zed.

Houston Mayor John Whitmire said at least four people were killed by the storm and that state resources were requested to help with the recovery. At least two were killed by falling trees, and a third was killed by a falling crane, officials said. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office reported an additional three fatalities Friday evening that were all considered to be indirectly or directly tied to the storm.


The storm toppled 10 power transmission towers throughout the region and cut power for 930,000 customers at its peak Thursday evening. Most of the power outages were concentrated in Harris County. About 600,000 customers in the county were still without power as of Friday afternoon, and more than 40,000 customers in the surrounding counties had also lost power.

Restoring electricity could take “weeks and not days,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a news conference Friday morning. Officials had initially predicted it would take up to 48 hours for power to return.

“There’s a lot we know, and there’s a lot we don’t know,” Hidalgo said. Officials are still working to determine the number of injuries and whether there are any additional fatalities related to the storm, as well as the timeline for power restoration. Hidalgo repeatedly urged residents to be patient with officials and crews as they work to gather information and restore power.


She warned there will be “some people in Harris County who will have to go a couple of weeks without power.”

President Biden on Friday night approved a major disaster declaration for Texas and ordered federal aid to boost ongoing recovery efforts “in the areas affected by severe storms, straight-line winds, tornadoes and flooding” that have been ongoing since April 26.

Meteorologists compared some of the damage from the storm to devastating hurricanes that previously hit Houston, such as Ike in 2008 and Alicia in 1983.

Treviño, who works in the medical field, lost power at the start of the storm and drove downtown to join his girlfriend, avoiding downed trees and blocked roads.

“It happened all so fast, and it did all this damage. This kind of emergency doesn’t happen downtown,” Treviño said, surveying the street with a half-dozen other onlookers and people headed to work. “You’re always thinking the concrete jungle is protected. Not last night.”

Elsewhere downtown, Andre Simonian had come to check on his family’s two Salata restaurants. The restaurants were fine. But the streets were a mess. He marveled at a man jogging through the storm detritus.


“I wanted to see the damage done to the city and to check on our employees, what they would go through” coming to work, he said. Once he saw the debris, “I told them, ‘Don’t even come in.’ I’m kind of scared to even be walking here, because what if more glass falls?”

Hidalgo said the area got “unlucky last night in terms of what ended up happening with the weather.” She added, “For folks without power … it’s uncomfortable and it’s sticky, but we’ll get through it.”

A few miles from downtown, residents in the Heights neighborhood were surveying widespread damage from the storm. In an area known for its historic homes and tree-lined streets, a couple said a 60-foot-tree had toppled on their house and opened up the attic.

Sarah and Charlie Blanchard hid with their five-month-old in their bathroom when the storm warning went off, and the winds began to hit. The tree fell as they hid there — at first, they weren’t sure what to make of the loud boom.

As of Friday, they were staying with friends who live nearby and have a generator, as they have no power.

Local schools are closed Friday “due to widespread damage” across the city, the Houston Independent School District said on social media. Officials had encouraged businesses to let employees work from home.

In Friday updates, Jeff Evans, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Houston, said much of the damage came from straight-line winds. Later in the day, the Weather Service confirmed to reporters that there were straight-line winds of at least 100 mph that blew through the downtown area Thursday. Evans also confirmed that there was a tornado in Cypress, in the northwest Harris County area, where high-voltage electrical transmission towers were toppled.

Overnight, crews restored power to more than 180,000 customers, CenterPoint Energy, Houston’s leading electricity provider, said on social media. An estimated 2,500 traffic lights are down in the area, Whitmire said during an update Friday morning.


The prospect of enduring lengthy power outages is a concern as temperatures rise in Houston over the next several days, especially for vulnerable groups such as older adults. Temperatures are forecast to rise to highs of 90 to 94 degrees over the weekend and remain that hot next week. When stifling levels of humidity are factored in, it will feel even hotter.

“Heat index values will be on the rise too, initially peaking in the upper 90s to around 100 on Sunday then rising to generally around a 100 to 105 range Monday through Thursday,” the Weather Service office serving Houston wrote Friday. “Be sure to check in on your family/friends/neighbors, especially those that are vulnerable, to be sure that they have ways to stay cool.”

By Tuesday of next week, the Weather Service is predicting a Level 3 out of 4 “major” heat risk in Houston affecting “anyone without effective cooling and/or adequate hydration.”


Fifteen public libraries across Harris County opened on Friday and will serve as cooling centers and areas for electricity throughout the weekend, officials said.

The same storm system also prompted numerous severe thunderstorm, tornado and flash flood warnings north and east of Houston. Storms extended into southern Louisiana, where there were reports of damage including downed trees and power lines from Lafayette to New Orleans, where winds gusted over 80 mph. A confirmed tornado struck near Convent, La., about 45 miles west of New Orleans, and it toppled trees and power lines. As of Friday afternoon, more than 40,000 customers were without power in Louisiana.

Forecasters had warned for days that dangerous storms would affect Texas and Louisiana on Thursday, but the primary concern was flooding. The Weather Service issued a rare “high risk” alert for excessive rainfall for parts of the area. While the agency received dozens of reports of flooding between Dallas and New Orleans, the intense thunderstorms that raked the Houston area will probably end up as the most damaging and costly aspect of the storm. The Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center received more than 100 reports of damaging winds, including a number of gusts over 80 mph, throughout Texas and southern Louisiana on Thursday.

Stephanie Gutierrez, who lives in an apartment complex in Houston’s Heights neighborhood, said she is used to keeping a close eye on weather.

The past few days, there have been multiple tornado warnings, only for it to be “just another rainstorm.” On Thursday, Gutierrez got home from work in the midafternoon and took a nap — only to wake up just before the storm hit. Just as the winds were picking up, she ran to her car to get a power bank for her phone. As she ran back to her apartment, a leasing sign thrown by the winds hit her in the face.


“It was so quick,” Gutierrez said. “It almost felt unreal.”

On Friday, she did not have power or cell service and said “power is my biggest concern.” Because her stove and water system are on electric, she has no hot water, and can’t use her stove.

“I can’t imagine how long it’s going to take to clean up,” Gutierrez said. “It makes me scared for hurricane season.”

The severe storms formed along a front that stalled on the northern Gulf Coast. Warm, humid air surging north out of the Gulf of Mexico collided with cooler, drier air north of the front, inciting the storm formation. This steamy air also spread over South Florida, setting numerous records.

A few additional intense storms are probable Friday across parts of the Gulf Coast and Mississippi Delta along the same front that brought Thursday’s severe weather.


A Level 2 out of 5 risk of severe thunderstorms has been drawn by the Storm Prediction Center for southeast Louisiana, including New Orleans and Baton Rouge; southern Mississippi including Gulfport; southern Alabama, including Mobile; southwestern Georgia; and the Florida Panhandle.

The main concern will be for strong to locally damaging gusts of 50 to 60 mph and hail up to quarter size, though an isolated tornado can’t be ruled out. Friday’s setup is a bit more removed from high-altitude jet stream energy, meaning there won’t be as much support for significant straight-line winds like those that slammed Houston on Thursday.

Waves of heavy rain will also accompany storms riding along the slow-moving front. That’s why a flood watch remains in effect for southern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.

Additional strong to severe storms are possible across the Southeast on Saturday before the front finally shifts into the Atlantic.

Ajasa and Samenow reported from Washington and Ables reported from Seoul. Matthew Cappucci in Washington and Helier Cheung in London contributed to this report.

Some power could take days to weeks to restore in Houston after destructive storm (2024)


Some power could take days to weeks to restore in Houston after destructive storm? ›

Some Houston-area power outages could last weeks after deadly storms cause widespread damage. At least four people were killed and much of the state's largest city was brought to a standstill. Crews are racing to restore power and remove debris.

How long does it take for power to come back on after a thunderstorm? ›

A downed power line can take as little as 2-3 hours for a crew to get out and fix them, but when the storm is bigger, you can expect the power to stay out for days, or sometimes even weeks. The extent of the damage and the efficiency of your local area's electric crew will make a big difference.

How long do most power outages last? ›

Average Duration of Power Outages

On average, most technical or minor outages in the USA last about 1-2 hours. However, those caused by major natural disasters can extend for days or even weeks.

Why does my power keep going out after a storm? ›

Lightning is often attracted to tall, metal objects like power lines. This can result in power surges that overload transformers and cause significant power problems. Trees that are struck by lightning can also fall onto nearby power lines, leading to power outages, even if local workers have pruned them.

What areas of Houston were affected by tornadoes? ›

There was an EF-1 tornado in Cypress on Thursday, May 16 at 6:08 p.m. with peak winds reaching 110 mph. The tornado touched down near the intersection of Tuckerton and Greenhouse Roads and then tracked southeastward through the Highlands subdivision. The path length was 0.77 miles and the maximum width was 100 yards.

Why does power take so long to restore? ›

A distribution fuse can take a few minutes to repair; a distribution transformer can take a couple of hours to replace; but widespread damage to the transmission system can take days, weeks, or even months to repair.

How to turn power back on after storm? ›

Reset the main breaker by turning the switch off and on two times. Leave the switch in the on position. Return to the breaker panel inside your home and turn each breaker back to the on position, one by one. In many cases, power is now restored.

Can I shower during a power outage? ›

Yes, provided the power hasn't been out for too long and that there's city water to provide water pressure. The water in the water heater tank will stay hot for quite a long time, so you'll be able to take a hot shower as long as you aren't in there too long.

Can you flush the toilet during a power outage? ›

Depending on the amount of water remaining in the pipes, you might be able to flush your toilet several times while the power is out. Eventually, however, your tank won't fill up anymore because the pumps are down. When this happens, you will need to flush your toilet manually by pouring in a bucket of water.

What is a prolonged power outage? ›

6. Prolonged Outage means planned or forced shutdown of a transmission element or generator for. Sample 1. Prolonged Outage means planned or forced shutdown of a transmission element or generator for more than 7 days.

Why does only half of my house have power after a storm? ›

Faulty Wiring:

Sometimes, old or damaged wiring can lead to a partial power outage. If the wires can't handle the electrical load, they might heat up and cause the breaker to trip.

What if part of the house lost power, no breakers tripped? ›

The lack of power could be related to faulty wiring, a loose connection, a tripped GFCI outlet, or even a blown fuse if you have an aged electrical system that features a fuse box instead of a circuit breaker box. If you're not sure where the issue is originating, give us a call.

Should I turn off the main breaker during a storm? ›

Turn Off Your Main Breaker

This is a great way to protect the wiring in your home from any surges and significantly reduces the risk of fire caused by old wiring being overloaded with power.

What part of Texas has never had a tornado? ›

While no part of Texas is immune from tornadoes, areas of far West Texas, El Paso, and Central Texas see the lowest occurrence of tornadoes in the state.

Has a tornado ever touched down in Houston? ›

A tornado touched down in the area, according to the National Weather Service. A tornado touched down in the Cypress area during the deadly Thursday night storms that battered the Houston region and caused multiple fatalities as well as power outages at more than 920,000 homes and businesses.

What city in Texas has the most tornadoes? ›

While Houston has had the most tornadoes of any major city in Texas, they're not necessarily the strongest. This is because a large percentage of Houston's tornadoes have been the result of tropical systems, which can produce a large number of weak tornadoes in a short period.

How long do electrical storms last? ›

Individual cells usually last 30 to 60 minutes, while the system as a whole may last for many hours. Multicell storms may produce hail, strong winds, brief tornadoes, and/or flooding. A squall line is a group of storms arranged in a line, often accompanied by “squalls” of high wind and heavy rain.

Is it normal for power to go out during a storm? ›

Power outages can be caused by many circ*mstances. Storms, accompanied by heavy wind and lightning, are major causes of power outages.

How long do lightning delays last? ›

When should activities be resumed? Because electrical charges can linger in clouds after a thunderstorm has seemingly passed, experts agree that people should wait at least 30 minutes after the last thunder before resuming outdoor activities.

How long does it take for a thunderstorm to end? ›

Thunderstorms typically do not last very long and will most often pass by your location in less than one hour. The best defense against thunderstorms is to stay inside a sturdy, substantial building that can protect you from lightning, hail, damaging wind, heavy rain, and tornadoes.

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