Tornado touched down in Cypress area during deadly Thursday storms | Houston Public Media (2024)

Colleen DeGuzman/Houston Public Media

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.

The National Weather Service’s Houston/Galveston office reported an EF-1 tornado with peak wind speeds of 110 mph near Cypress, a suburb northwest of Houston. There also were straight-line winds downtown that peaked at 100 mph and caused significant damage to buildings and trees, in addition to straight-line winds in the Baytown and Galena Park areas east of town that reached 90-100 mph.

Cooling centers open across town

The City of Houston opened five cooling centers Friday afternoon for impacted residents without air-conditioning. Those in need of transportation to the centers can request free rides through the city’s online 311 system or by calling 311 or 713-837-0311.

Kingwood Community Center at 4102 Rustic Wood Dr. and Stude Park Community Center at 1031 Stude St. will be operating as cooling centers until 7 p.m. Friday.

Acres Homes Multi-Service Center at 6719 West Montgomery Rd., Sunnyside Health and Multi-Service Center at 4510 Reed Rd., and Metropolitan Multi-Service Center at 1475 W. Gray St. will be open from 3-7 p.m. Friday.

Abbott amends disaster declaration

Jack Williams

In an effort to prepare the state’s emergency response, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott amended a disaster declaration he issued during a previous surge of Houston-area storms in April, he announced Friday.

“I have since amended that declaration to ensure every community threatened by dangerous weather conditions would have access to necessary resources,” he said in a statement.

The Texas Division of Emergency Management is providing impacted communities with long-term recover resources. The Public Utility Commission of Texas is coordinating with utility providers to restore power, the governor said.

RELATED: Officials urging Houston-area residents to report flood damage to qualify for federal funding for recovery

State and local officials have been working to secure federal funding for areas affected by Houston’s recent storms. Abbott is encouraging affected residents to report storm damage at damage.tdem.texas.gov.

HISD schools sustain storm damage

A total of 122 schools in the Houston Independent School District (HISD) had no power as of Friday night. The largest school in district in Texas was among several Houston-area districts to cancel classes for the day.

Dozens of HISD campuses sustained wind and tree damage from the storms that passed through Houston on Thursday, according to the school district, which said Paige, Pugh, Robinson and Sinclair elementary schools sustained “more extensive damage.”

HISD said its goal is to have all of its students back in a classroom by Monday.

“If necessary, students whose buildings have more extensive damage may attend school at an alternative location while the damage is being repaired,” the district said in an email. “We will communicate directly over the weekend.”

Two Westside High School students were injured Thursday when their bus was stuck on the Hardy Toll Road during the storm, according to the district. The students were at home Friday and recovering, HISD said, and no other injuries to students or staff in the district were reported.

HISD will distribute food to families in need at 9 a.m. Saturday at Austin High School and Sam Houston MSTC.

Power outages could last weeks

Some Houston-area residents could be without power for weeks after the Thursday night storms that left at least seven people dead, city and Harris County officials said.

CenterPoint Energy, which supplies electricity to the Houston area, said Friday that strong winds caused “significant damage” to its infrastructure in places such as Baytown, Bellaire, Cypress, Greenspoint, Humble and Spring Branch. Some transmission towers were downed in Cypress, which is northwest of Houston.

“Some parts of the county, much like Ike, are going to have to go a couple weeks most likely without power,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, referring to Hurricane Ike in 2008.

RELATED: At least four dead after severe storms batter Houston Thursday

“The initial indications are that we had fallen trees cause two of the fatalities," Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said Thursday night. "One was a crane accident as well that was blown over by the wave of the strong winds. So right now, the Houston Police Department is on the scene, doing their investigations so we won't know the exact cause of death but that's what the indications are right now."

At least 10 transmission lines down

Tornado touched down in Cypress area during deadly Thursday storms | Houston Public Media (4)

Janett Martinez Avalos

Paul Lock, a spokesperson for CenterPoint Energy, said at least 10 transmission lines were down across the Houston area. Seven were down in Harris County.

“It is going to take us another day to assess,” Lock said.

“If you depend on life-saving equipment, you need to make plans now to find another place to stay,” he added.

CenterPoint’s outage tracker showed more than 600,000 customers remained without power as of late Friday afternoon.

RELATED: Houston-area residents share accounts of fast-developing severe storms

In Cypress, transmission lines came crashing down during the gusts of extreme wind that push through Thursday evening near West and Fry roads.

Health facilities closed

Power outages affecting major facilities across the county led the Harris Health System to close or delay the opening of several outpatient facilities Friday. Ben Taub and Lyndon B. Johnson hospitals are operating normal hours on Friday.

Fallen trees and branches are currently scattered across Heights Blvd after extreme winds blew through the Houston area last night.

As of now, more than 700,000 people are still without power, according to CenterPoint.@HoustonPubMedia pic.twitter.com/OqabY1H9aH

— Lucio Vasquez (@luciov120) May 17, 2024

Full closure Harris Health facilities:

• Aldine
• Ambulatory Surgical Center at LBJ Campus
• Pediatric and Adolescent Center – CE Odom
• Cypress
• Danny Jackson
• Dental Center
• Gulfgate
• Margo Hilliard
• Northwest
• Nueva Casa
• Outpatient Center at LBJ Campus
• Settegast
• Sunset Heights

Harris Health facilities opening at noon Friday:

• Acres Home
• Baytown
• Ben Taub Tower
• Casa de Amigos
• El Franco Lee
• LBJ Clinic Infusion Center, ENT, Oral Surgery, and Ophthalmology
• Martin Luther King
• Monroe
• Pediatric and Adolescent Center – Pasadena
• Sareen
• Smith (except Infusion Center and Radiation Therapy)
• Strawberry
• Squatty Lyons
• Thomas Street at Quentin Mease
• Vallbona

Colleen DeGuzman/Houston Public Media

During a joint news conference Friday with Houston Mayor John Whitmire, Hidalgo said she issued a disaster declaration for the county, which includes most of Houston.

At least 2,500 traffic lights were not functioning Friday.

“CenterPoint is trying to re-energize them,” Whitmire said. “Our first responders are spread thin.”

Several streets through downtown Houston remained closed Friday as crews worked to clean up damage that extended across the area.

I'm over in the Cypress area assessing the damage of yesterday's storm, which @houmayor said carried winds comparable to Hurricane Ike.

There's major tree damage in northwest Houston. Roads have been cleared to allow traffic through. @HoustonPubMedia pic.twitter.com/NN6rrc15QE

— Colleen DeGuzman (@acolleendg) May 17, 2024

“It roughly started in and around the Cypress area,” said Josh Lichter, a senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “Those speeds, again based on the radar, increased as we headed into the Houston area, especially the downtown area where we had a lot of the windows blown out on some of the skyscrapers. Those winds continued up to the west end of Galveston Bay, and that’s where we had another one of those 74 mile-per-hour wind gusts measured by one of the stations over there.”

Tom Perumean/Houston Public Media

Thousands still without power

More than 700,000 people were still without power around Houston on Friday morning, according to CenterPoint Energy, which said about 922,000 were without electricity at one point Thursday night.

CenterPoint crews were working to assess damage and make repairs, but urged customers to be prepared for extended weather-related outages and delays in their outage notifications.

“CenterPoint Energy urges customers to always stay at least 35 feet away from downed power lines and damaged electric utility equipment,” the company said Friday. “Treat all down and damaged equipment as energized and report them to the company at 713-207-2222.”

School closures

Dozens of school districts did not hold classes on Friday as officials planned to assess damage caused by Thursday evening storms that left windows shattered and trees in roadways.

Houston, Cy-Fair, Spring Branch, Conroe, Sheldon, Crosby, Cleveland, Klein, Shepherd, Spring, Hempstead, Aldine and Galena Park Independent School Districts are among those that closed Friday.

Most state district courts in Harris County also will be closed Friday, and jury service was cancelled.

The Houston Public Library announced that all of its locations would be closed until Monday.

Shattered glass sprawled across some downtown streets after storms and heavy winds blew through the area. Downed trees extended across streets in northwest Houston and Montrose.

Tom Perumean/Houston Public Media

METRO services, express lanes impacted

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO), the region’s public transit provider, is reducing and modifying its services on Friday in response to Thursday night’s storm.

All park & ride services are suspended until further notice, METRO announced Friday morning. Delays also should be expected for buses as well as METROLift and the transit authority’s curb2curb service, along with reduced frequency and bus shuttle service for the Green, Purple and Red METRORail lines.

Additionally, the high-occupancy vehicle and express lanes will be closed on Interstate 45, I-69/U.S. 59 and U.S. 290.

Jack Williams/Houston Public Media

Communications assistance available

Comcast, which said it had about 300,000 Xfinity and Comcast Business customers without working internet in the Houston area as of early Friday afternoon, is opening all of its Xfinity WiFi hotspots in the region to impacted community members.

The hotspots can be used for free through Wednesday, Comcast said. A map of available hotspots in the Houston area can be found on the company website.

AT&T, another communications provider serving the Houston region, said its services also have been impacted. The company is waiving overage charges to provide unlimited talk, text and data for AT&T postpaid and prepaid customers with billing addresses in impacted zip codes from Friday through May 26.

Tornado touched down in Cypress area during deadly Thursday storms | Houston Public Media (2024)
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