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Lack of Power, Air Conditioning Raise Public Safety Concerns Following Destructive Windstorm In Houston Metro

  Southeast Texas was hit hard by hurricane-force winds embedded in a line of destructive thunderstorms Thursday night.    

May 16, 2024

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AccuWeather Global Weather Center – May 16, 2024


AccuWeather expert meteorologists say repairs to damaged buildings and utility infrastructure could take weeks in the Houston area, following a line of powerful storms that pounded southeast Texas Thursday evening. 


Several tornado warnings and a “destructive” severe thunderstorm warning were issued as the storms passed through the area.  


Winds as powerful as a Category 1 hurricane flipped large trucks, toppled over trees, and knocked out windows in high-rise buildings in downtown Houston. The storms also brought down several large power transmission towers and lines near Cypress.  




“Watching the storm minute by minute, AccuWeather expert meteorologists detected thunderstorm-generated winds of 100-110 miles per hour above the ground at roughly 2,000 feet. Our experience suggests that this type of setup can produce wind gusts at the ground of 90-95 miles per hour or even higher,” explained AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jon Porter. “The core of the damaging winds traversed some of the most populated parts of the Houston metropolitan area with many buildings and infrastructure susceptible to the devastating winds, which compounded the impact of the intense windstorm.” 


AccuWeather expert meteorologists say there are major public safety hazards in the Houston area after the storm. Shattered windows in high-rise buildings could send shards of glass falling onto the streets and sidewalks below. Trees with weakened root systems could continue to uproot and fall over due to the saturated ground after weeks of relentless rainfall in the region. Live power lines that came down pose an electrocution threat and can be difficult to spot in the dark. Flash flooding along rising rivers, streams, and bayous is also a major concern.  


“This line of thunderstorms produced significant damage in the Houston metropolitan area as it evolved into a destructive windstorm when it entered the northwestern Houston suburbs and raced into the downtown area. Initial damage reports are significant,” said Jon Porter. “Though this windstorm was completely different from a meteorological perspective than a hurricane, people in the Houston area may have felt like they experienced a brief “mini-hurricane” since the damage looks similar to that which might be experienced from the wind impacts of a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale." 


Storm surveys are expected in some of the hardest hit areas to determine if the damage was caused by a tornado or destructive wind gusts. 


“In addition to the widespread thunderstorm damaging winds associated with the severe thunderstorms’ especially intense rear flank downdraft, well known for creating major windstorms, tornadoes may have been associated with the severe thunderstorm at times as it tracked through the Houston area,” said Porter.  


More than 1 million homes and businesses in southeast Texas lost power during the storms Thursday night.


AccuWeather Senior Director of Forecast Operations Dan DePodwin says the damage to major infrastructure and lack of power and air conditioning could lead to more public safety concerns with temperatures soaring this weekend.  


“It can take days, at least through the weekend, to fully restore power to the hundreds of thousands of customers without electricity in the Houston area,” said DePodwin. “This is especially concerning since heat will build this weekend as daytime high temperatures climb into the 90s both Saturday and Sunday, with AccuWeather RealFeel temperatures between 100 and 105. Without air conditioning, this type of heat can cause significant stress on people. It’s important to drink plenty of fluids, stay in shady areas, and encourage airflow to stay as cool as possible.” 


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