Hot weather poses new risk as thousands remain without power after deadly Houston storm

As the Houston area works to clean up and restore power to hundreds of thousands after deadly storms left at least seven people dead, it will do so amid a smog warning and rising Texas heat

HOUSTON (AP) — As the Houston area works to clean up and restore power to hundreds of thousands after deadly storms left at least seven people dead, it will do so amid a smog warning and scorching temperatures that could pose health risks.

National Weather Service meteorologist Marc Chenard said on Saturday that highs of around 90 degrees (32.2 C) were expected through the start of the coming week, with heat indexes likely approaching 100 degrees (38 C) by midweek.

“We expect the impact of the heat to gradually increase ... we will start to see that heat risk increase Tuesday into Wednesday through Friday,” Chenard said.

The heat index is what the temperature feels like to the human body when humidity is combined with the air temperature, according to the weather service.

“Don’t overdo yourself during the cleanup process,” the weather service’s Houston office said in a post on the social platform X.

In addition to the heat, the Houston area could face poor air quality during the weekend.

Heavy rainfall was possible in eastern Louisiana and central Alabama on Saturday, and parts of Louisiana were also at risk for flooding.

The Houston Health Department said it would distribute 400 free portable air conditioners to area seniors, people with disabilities and caregivers of disabled children to contend with the heat.

Five cooling centers also were opened — four in Houston and one in Kingwood.

HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS REMAIN WITHOUT POWER

The widespread destruction of Thursday's storms brought much of Houston to a standstill. Thunderstorms and hurricane-force winds tore through the city — decimating the facade of one brick building and leaving trees, debris and shattered glass on the streets. A tornado also touched down near the northwest Houston suburb of Cypress.

More than a half-million homes and businesses in Texas remained without electricity by midday Saturday, according to PowerOutage.us. Another 21,000 customers were also without power in Louisiana, where strong winds and a suspected tornado hit.

“It’s been a madhouse out here,” Cypress resident Hallie O’Bannon said. “You know we don’t have any power. No hot water. It’s been really crazy.”

“Everyone is pretty resilient, and everyone’s just trying to get back to normal and help each other out and the best way we can,” O'Bannon added.

CenterPoint Energy, which has deployed 1,000 employees to the area and is requesting 5,000 more, said power restoration could take several days or longer in some areas, and that customers need to ensure their homes can safely be reconnected.

“In addition to damaging CenterPoint Energy’s electric infrastructure and equipment, severe weather may have caused damage to customer-owned equipment” such as the weatherhead, which is where power enters the home, the company said.

Customers must have repairs completed by a qualified electrician before service can be restored, CenterPoint added.

High-voltage transmission towers that were torn apart and downed power lines pose a twofold challenge for utility companies because the damage affected transmission and distribution systems, according to Alexandria von Meier, a power and energy expert who called that a rare thing. Damage to just the distribution system is more typical, von Meier said.

How quickly repairs are made will depend on a variety of factors, including the time it takes to assess the damage, equipment replacement, roadwork access issues and workforce availability.

STORM CAUGHT MANY OFF GUARD

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez reported late Friday that three people died during the storm, including an 85-year-old woman whose home caught fire after being struck by lightning and a 60-year-old man who had tried to use his vehicle to power his oxygen tank.

Houston Mayor John Whitmire previously said at least four other people were killed in the city when the storms swept through Harris County, which includes Houston.

School districts in the Houston area canceled classes Friday for more than 400,000 students and government offices were closed.

Houston Independent School District Superintendent Mike Miles said Saturday that he hoped to reopen schools on Monday, but that is dependent upon the restoration of electricity in school buildings.

“If a school doesn't have power, it will remain closed,” Miles told reporters during a tour of the heavily damaged Sinclair Elementary School.

Whitmire warned that police were out in force, including state troopers sent to the area to prevent looting. He said the speed and intensity of the storm caught many off guard.

Noelle Delgado, executive director of Houston Pets Alive, said she pulled up at the animal rescue on Thursday night and found the dogs and cats — more than 30 in all — uninjured, but the building's awning had been ripped off, the sign was mangled and water was leaking inside.

She hoped to find foster homes for the animals.

“I could definitely tell that this storm was a little different,” she said. “It felt terrifying.”

STATE AND FEDERAL RECOVERY ASSISTANCE ON THE WAY

In light of the storm damage, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Whitmire both signed disaster declarations, paving the way for state and federal storm recovery assistance.

A separate disaster declaration from President Joe Biden makes federal funding available to people in seven Texas counties — including Harris — that have been affected by severe storms, straight-line winds, tornadoes and flooding since April 26.

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Miller reported from Oklahoma City; Associated Press reporters Jamie Stengle in Dallas, Valerie Gonzalez in McAllen, Texas, and Lisa Baumann in Bellingham, Washington, contributed.

Down power lines are shown in the aftermath of a severe thunderstorm Friday, May 17, 2024, in Cypress, Texas, near Houston. Thunderstorms pummeled southeastern Texas on Thursday killing at least four people, blowing out windows in high-rise buildings and knocking out power to more than 900,000 homes and businesses in the Houston area. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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Crews work to clean up debris after a wall came down in the aftermath of a severe storm on Friday, May 17, 2024 in Houston. Fast-moving thunderstorms pummeled southeastern Texas for the second time this month, killing at least four people, blowing out windows in high-rise buildings, downing trees and knocking out power to more than 900,000 homes and businesses in the Houston area. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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Cherly Herpich takes a photograph of a downtown building with blown out window in the aftermath of a severe thunderstorm Friday, May 17, 2024, in Houston. Thunderstorms pummeled southeastern Texas on Thursday killing at least four people, blowing out windows in high-rise buildings and knocking out power to more than 900,000 homes and businesses in the Houston area. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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Blown out windows on a high-rise downtown building are shown in the aftermath of a severe thunderstorm Friday, May 17, 2024, in Houston. Thunderstorms pummeled southeastern Texas on Thursday killing at least four people, blowing out windows in high-rise buildings and knocking out power to more than 900,000 homes and businesses in the Houston area. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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Carrie Jenkins stands in her living room by the light of her open front door, the only light in her home since losing power the night before in the aftermath of a severe storm, Friday, May 17, 2024 in Houston. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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A man walks over fallen bricks from a damaged building in the aftermath of a severe thunderstorm Friday, May 17, 2024, in Houston. Thunderstorms pummeled southeastern Texas on Thursday, killing at least four people, blowing out windows in high-rise buildings and knocking out power to more than 900,000 homes and businesses in the Houston area. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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A man uses a chainsaw to cut up a tree that tore off the facade of a house, Friday, May 17, 2024, in Houston, after a strong thunderstorm moved through Thursday evening. (Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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A U.S. Postal Service truck is flipped on its side at the intersection of Bingle and Sowden in the aftermath of a severe storm on Friday, May 17, 2024, in Houston. The widespread destruction brought much of Houston to a standstill as crews raced to restore power and remove uprooted trees and debris. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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A crane sits on top of a cement truck, Friday, May 17, 2024, in Houston, at an address where authorities say a man was killed when a crane fell on the cement truck he was sitting in during the previous night's storm. (Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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Power transmission lines were twisted and toppled after powerful storms swept through the Houston area on Saturday, May 18, 2024 in Cypress, Texas. As the Houston area works to clean up and restore power to hundreds of thousands, it will do so amid a smog warning and rising Texas heat. (AP photo/Mark Vancleave)

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Isiah Turner, a volunteer with Trae the Truth's Relief Gang, cuts branches from a tree that fell onto the roof of Carrie Turner's home after a severe storm, Friday, May 17, 2024 in Houston. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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Blown out windows on a high-rise downtown building are shown in the aftermath of a severe thunderstorm Friday, May 17, 2024, in Houston. Thunderstorms pummeled southeastern Texas on Thursday killing at least four people, blowing out windows in high-rise buildings and knocking out power to more than 900,000 homes and businesses in the Houston area. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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The wall of a tire shop at the intersection of Sowden and Bingle is blown out in the aftermath of a severe storm on Friday, May 17, 2024, in Houston. The widespread destruction brought much of Houston to a standstill as crews raced to restore power and remove uprooted trees and debris. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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Tree service crews climb atop an SUV to cut apart a tree that fell on it at an apartment complex in the 4600 block of Sherwood in the aftermath of a severe storm on Friday, May 17, 2024, in Houston. Fast-moving thunderstorms pummeled southeastern Texas for the second time this month, killing at least four people, blowing out windows in high-rise buildings, downing trees and knocking out power to more than 900,000 homes and businesses in the Houston area. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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Juan Angeles, left, cleans out a bedroom in his apartment in the aftermath of a severe storm, where the roof of his home was torn away, on Friday, May 17, 2024 in Houston. Fast-moving thunderstorms pummeled southeastern Texas for the second time this month, killing at least four people, blowing out windows in high-rise buildings, downing trees and knocking out power to more than 900,000 homes and businesses in the Houston area. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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