Houston storms leave 7 dead, buildings shattered and power outages may last weeks

Fast-moving thunderstorms pummeled Texas and Louisiana late Thursday and early Friday, killing several people, flooding roads and leaving nearly 1 million homes and businesses without power, according to poweroutage.us.

At least seven people died as destructive winds and torrential rain blasted through Houston, ABC local affiliate KTRK reported, adding that officials are still determining the numbers. Fallen trees appear to have caused two of the deaths, and a toppled crane caused another, Houston Fire Department Chief Samuel Peña said in a press conference Thursday night.

"We are going to have to talk about this disaster in weeks, not days," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said during a press conference on Friday morning, warning that some areas could be without power for weeks.

The violent weather flooded streets, knocked down trees and power lines and shattered the windows of downtown hotels and office buildings, sending glass raining onto the streets below.

Houston Mayor John Whitmire said the powerful gusts were reminiscent of 2008's Hurricane Ike, which pounded the city, adding, "Our first responders will be working around the clock."

"Many high-rise skyscraper windows were shattered in parts of the Houston downtown area given that distributive winds near the ground were even higher just above the ground as there is less friction from buildings and trees, etc. to slow the winds just above the ground," AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jon Porter said.

"By using the wind power law, AccuWeather experts say a measured wind gust of 71 mph at 33 feet, over a coverage of many trees and occasional buildings where the measurement was, would equate to 80 mph winds at 60 feet and 90 mph winds at 100 feet. Likewise, if we assume winds of 85 mph at 33 feet, that would equate wind gusts of 96 mph at 60 feet and 107 mph at 100 feet," Porter explained, adding that a full damage assessment from the National Weather Service may be needed to properly estimate the severity of the winds in Houston."

The Houston Independent School District canceled classes Friday for some 400,000 students at all its 274 campuses.

According to PowerOutage.us, as of Friday evening, 588,000 homes and businesses in Texas and more than 27,000 in Louisiana were without power. This was down from the more than 1 million left in the dark in Texas on Thursday night.

"Police are out in force including 50 state troopers sent to the area to prevent looting," Whitmire said, according to The Associated Press.

AccuWeather meteorologists have warned that serious, life-threatening flash flooding within the severe weather zones into the weekend can pose an even greater threat to life and property than the dangers from hail, damaging winds, and lightning strikes combined.

The hottest weather so far this year is in the forecast for Texas and Louisiana in the wake of the deadly storms, potentially reaching dangerous levels for those who experience extended power outages.

"This will be the first extended stretch of widespread 90-degree or higher heat this year," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bob Larson. "For those without power and thus air conditioning or electric fans, this comes at the worst possible time."

AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures will be around 100 degrees for several afternoons in a row into the new week, followed up by warm nights. This pattern is predicted to continue through most of next week and into the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

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