HOUSTON—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 May 18 that highs of around 90 degrees were expected through the start of the coming week, with heat indexes likely approaching 100 degrees by midweek.

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.

Monkeia Brown-Rankin stands in her living room describing the damage that occurred when an early morning storm went through the area on May 13 in Jackson, Miss. Photo: Lauren Witte/The Clarion-Ledger via AP

“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 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.

The widespread destruction of the May 16 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 May 18, according to PowerOutage.us. Another 21,000 customers were also without power in Louisiana, where strong winds and a suspected tornado hit.

Storms have killed at least 3 in the Southeast, as of May 9. Severe weather is set to continue through the week. Photo: MGN Online

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.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez reported late May 17 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.

Acquired Through MGN Online on 05/09/2024

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.

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. (AP)