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Severe Texas Thunderstorms Cause Fatalities, Massive Power Outages, and Widespread Damage in Houston Area

Southeastern Texas experienced a second wave of fast-moving thunderstorms this month on Thursday, resulting in the deaths of at least four individuals, extensive property damage, and widespread power outages affecting over 900,000 homes and businesses in the Houston area.

Authorities advised residents to avoid traveling, as many roads were blocked and traffic signals were expected to remain inoperative throughout the night.

"Stay home tonight and do not go to work tomorrow unless you are an essential worker. Take care of your children," Houston Mayor John Whitmire urged during an evening briefing. "Our first responders will be working nonstop."

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The severe weather claimed four lives, with at least two fatalities caused by falling trees and another due to a crane toppling over in the strong winds, officials reported.

Flooded streets, downed trees, and power lines were widespread across the region. Mayor Whitmire noted wind speeds reached 160 kph, accompanied by some tornado activity, reminiscent of Hurricane Ike's impact in 2008.

Hundreds of windows in downtown hotels and office buildings shattered, scattering glass onto the streets below. The state dispatched Department of Public Safety officers to secure the area.

"Downtown is a mess," Whitmire remarked.

First responders were addressing a backlog of 911 calls, he added.

At Minute Maid Park, home to the Houston Astros, the retractable roof was closed due to the storm. However, the powerful winds still blew rain into the stadium, forming puddles on the outfield warning track, but the game against the Oakland Athletics proceeded as scheduled.

The Houston Independent School District canceled classes for approximately 400,000 students across all 274 campuses on Friday.

Though the storm system moved through quickly, flood watches and warnings remained in effect for Houston and eastern areas. The severe weather also hit neighboring Louisiana, leaving over 215,000 customers without power.

Flights at Houston's two major airports were briefly grounded. Sustained winds exceeding 96 kph were recorded at Bush Intercontinental Airport.

About 900,000 customers in Harris County, which includes Houston and has a population of over 4.7 million, were without electricity, according to poweroutage.us.

The storm's impact extended to the suburbs, with Montgomery County emergency officials describing damage to transmission lines as "catastrophic" and warning of prolonged power outages.

Heavy storms earlier in May had already led to numerous high-water rescues, including some from rooftops of flooded homes.

The recent thunderstorms that struck southeastern Texas highlight the region's vulnerability to severe weather events, causing tragic loss of life and significant infrastructure damage. With extensive power outages and disrupted services, the community faces a challenging recovery period. Authorities' swift response and residents' cooperation will be crucial in managing the aftermath and restoring normalcy. As the area braces for potential future storms, enhanced preparedness and resilience measures will be essential to mitigate the impact of such natural disasters.

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