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4 dead as severe storms hit Houston area; nearly 1 million without power in Texas

Four people were dead and hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses were without power in Texas as severe storms slammed the Houston area Thursday night.

Two people were killed by fallen trees and one was in a crane accident, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said at a news briefing Thursday night.

Peña said they are not official causes of death but the preliminary indications of how three of the four people died. No information about the fourth death was provided.

The heavy rain and powerful storms also flooded streets and busted windows in downtown buildings.

In Harris County, where Houston is, about 782,000 homes and businesses were without power at about 1 a.m. CT, according to At one point Thursday night, about 880,000 had been in the dark in the county. Statewide about 904,000 customers were without power early Friday, down from more than 1 million Thursday evening.

Severe Weather In Houston Texas
A car crushed by falling bricks from a fallen building wall sits in a downtown parking lot in Houston on Thursday night.David J. Phillip / AP

Mayor John Whitmire said at the briefing that the city had “80, 90, 100 mile per hour storms” and that “some twisters” were “mixed into strong winds.”

He urged those in his city to stay home and off the roads.

“Stay at home. Do not travel on the roads. It’s dark; there’s trees across roadways. … So be very patient, cautious, look out for one another, stay at home tonight, don’t go to work tomorrow unless you’re an essential worker,” he said.

Schools in the Houston Independent School District will be closed Friday, Whitmire said.

Whitmire said that downtown Houston is a “mess,” that firefighters were taking live wires off of Route 290 and that most traffic lights across the city are down.

Severe Weather in Houston Texas
Workers clean up broken glass inside a damaged restaurant in downtown Houston.David J. Phillip / AP

He said agencies in the city will be working around the clock and through the night to clear debris and make conditions safer.

In an earlier statement, Whitmire said that “many roads are impassible due to downed power lines, debris, and fallen trees.” He also touched on the “significant” power outages and reports of damage in the area.

The National Weather Service was expecting 3 to 6 inches of rain to fall, with higher totals possible in some areas. A flood watch was in effect through Friday morning.

The National Weather Service office in Houston warned that tornadoes were possible as “severe storms continue to roll across our coastal counties.”

Severe Weather in Houston Texas
Local residents remove a fallen tree on top of a car in the aftermath of a severe thunderstorm that passed through the city.David J. Phillip / AP

Flood warnings for parts of southern Texas are in effect until Friday morning, according to the National Weather Service, covering parts of Harris County, as well as cities such as Austin, Brazos, Burleson, Grimes, Houston, Madison, Montgomery, northern Liberty, Polk, San Jacinto, southern Liberty, Trinity, Walker, Waller and Washington.

Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia on social media urged his crews to “stay in place” as “many limbs are down making roads unsafe.” He added that his teams were on standby to begin removing debris “once winds diminish.”

Photos and videos on social media show intense flooding and downed trees across Houston, as well as toppled electrical towers and power lines.

Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros
Wind and rain sweeps through Minute Maid Park ahead of a Houston Astros game on Thursday evening. Logan Riely / Getty Images

In a video posted to Facebook, rain leaks into Minute Maid Park, where the Houston Astros play. Another video shows hordes of baseball fans leaving the stadium amid the bad weather.

Winds in the area were so strong they appeared to blow off roof panels at a Hyatt Regency Hotel in Houston, another video posted to social media shows.