Four dead after fast-moving strong storms batter Houston

Nearly 1 million people were without power late Thursday after fast-moving strong storms hit Houston and the surrounding area. Photo courtesy City of Houston/X

May 17 (UPI) -- Four people are dead after strong storms hammered the Houston area on Thursday, officials said as they warned the public to stay home.

Storms with winds reaching 100 mph hit the Texas city on Thursday, causing widespread damages, officials said during a press conference.

Mayor John Whitmire of Houston told the public to stay home Thursday night and Friday when only essential workers are to go to work. Schools would also be closed.

"Stay at home tonight," he said. "If you are not an essential worker, don't go to work tomorrow."

The public is being instructed to avoid downtown, which officials said received considerable storm damage.

"Please do not drive in Downtown Houston tonight, or for that matter, anywhere else in the region that sustained storm damage," the National Weather Service Houston echoed in a statement online late Thursday.

"Widespread debris, glass and electrical lines are in the streets."

Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena said two of the deaths were the result of fallen trees with a third related to a crane incident. The cause of the fourth death was not announced.

The fast-moving storms had knocked out power to nearly 1 million customers according to, with Whitmire saying it would take 24 hours to get most back online while others would be without power for up two days.

"We're responding to a large number of power outages caused by severe weather in parts of our service area," CenterPoint Energy said in a statement. "Please be prepared for extended weather-related power outages and possible delays in some outage notifications."