At Least Four Dead as Storms Batter Houston Area

At Least Four Dead as Storms Batter Houston Area

Four people were killed and more than one million people were without power as intense thunderstorms swept through Texas on Thursday evening, bringing heavy rain, destructive winds and dangerous flooding to central and southeast portions of the state that had already flooded this month.

There were reports of blown-out windows, shredded building facades and downed power lines in Houston as a powerful storm tore through the downtown area. Four people were killed by falling trees, said Mary Benton, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office. At least one of the victims was inside a vehicle she added. The public school district in Houston said all schools would be closed Friday.

Ahead of the storm, the National Weather Service in Houston warned people to take cover and brace for winds up to 80 miles per hour.

Forecasters had also issued a tornado warning for the area as well as a special marine warning for the area including the Galveston Bay.

More than one million customers were without power across Texas, most of them in the Houston area, according to CenterPoint Energy, the provider in southeast Texas, said it had received reports of downed power lines and advised customers that its call centers were overwhelmed.

Local news broadcasts reported considerable damage in downtown Houston, where a club emerged from the storm missing a brick wall, metal sign posts appeared twisted by the force of the winds and blown out windows.

Forecasters issued a string of flash flood warnings across the state earlier in the afternoon, warning Texans in those areas to seek higher ground and avoid driving through flooded roadways.

Images and videos circulating on social media emerging from east-central Texas on Thursday showed vehicles that appeared to struggle driving through flooded roads in College Station, Texas, which was under a flash flood warning through the evening.

One video posted in the evening showed strong winds whipping large panel structures at Minute Maid Park, where the Houston Astros were playing the Oakland Athletics.

The Weather Prediction Center said earlier Thursday that more than 12 million people across Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi faced the threat of excessive rainfall that could produce flash flooding and warned of potential heavy rains and flooding north of the Houston area on Thursday night.

Lina Hidalgo, the top executive of Harris County, which includes Houston, said earlier on social media that rain was expected to move through Harris County “fairly quickly” on Thursday night.

“But the worst case scenario is that heavy rain could hit the East Fork of the San Jacinto River, impacting residents and eventually causing more flooding as we get into the weekend,” she said.

Portions of Harris County, including areas near the San Jacinto River, were already been hit with major flooding earlier this month. The flooding prompted Ms. Hidalgo to issue a disaster declaration that would bring federal aid to Harris County residents who were affected by the storms.

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