Tornadoes near Pittsburgh; Deaths in Texas


Authorities reported more weather-related deaths in Texas Friday evening after a storm system hit the Houston area. Meanwhile, severe weather is expected to wreak more havoc across the Southeast, bringing the threat of hail, damaging winds and tornadoes to the region over the weekend.

On Friday evening, the National Weather Service issued tornado warnings for parts of south Georgia, southeast Alabama and the Florida Panhandle and confirmed three tornado touchdowns in the Pittsburgh area.

NWS also issued flash flood warnings for portions of Texas, Georgia, Alabama, Ohio and Florida on Friday evening. Up to 3.5 inches of rain has already fallen in some areas, the weather service said, and more is on the way.

The latest round of severe weather came after Houston woke up to scenes of destruction. Fierce storms with winds of up to 100 miles per hour tossed debris across streets and littered the downtown ground with broken glass.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez confirmed three additional storm-related deaths in a social media post Friday evening. Authorities had previously reported that the storm claimed at least four lives.

“We are in recovery mode,” said Houston Mayor John Whitmire.

The National Weather Service confirmed that an EF-1 tornado touched down Thursday evening near Cypress, about 30 miles northwest of Houston, with winds of 110 mph. Reports of an unconfirmed tornado in Galena Park, about 11 miles east of downtown, were also being investigated, NWS meteorologist Jeff Evans said Friday. “The majority of this damage is due to straight-line winds,” he said.

At least four dead in storm in Texas

Mary Benton, a spokeswoman for the mayor, told USA TODAY that the Harris County coroner's office will identify those killed and determine the causes of death.

Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said Thursday that two of the deaths there were caused by falling trees. Another person was killed in a crane accident.

On Friday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said it would take time to assess the impact of the storm, which she said knocked out power to 740,000 customers, most of them Harris County residents.

“We haven’t seen this type of wind in Harris County since Hurricane Alicia in 1983,” she said.

Alicia, a Category 3 hurricane, struck the state in August 1983, bringing winds of up to 110 miles per hour, according to the NWS. It caused more than $7 billion in damage.

Restoring power could take weeks in some areas, officials warn

Hidalgo said she signed a disaster declaration Friday morning and that the Houston government was in contact with the White House.

At a News briefing On Friday afternoon, Hidalgo warned that restoring power could take weeks in some areas.

Most of the storm damage appeared to be around Cypress, Hidalgo said. A helicopter scan of the affected area showed that the destruction was not as extensive as they had expected.

The storms come weeks after the Houston area faced flooding following heavy rains and thunderstorms earlier this month. In late April, Groveton and Trinity X — two towns about 100 miles north of Houston — received 10 and 9 inches of rain, respectively.

Abbott issued a disaster declaration late last month in response to severe storms that hit the state weeks ago with flooding, hail and damaging winds. In a letter Tuesday, he called on President Joe Biden to declare a major disaster for the state.

By Friday morning, the debris had been cleared from the highways but was still scattered across individual neighborhoods, Hidalgo said.

“The city center is a mess”

On Thursday evening, Whitmire urged residents to stay home given the dangerous road conditions. Widespread power outages had also knocked out traffic lights across the city, posing a traffic control hazard for morning commuters. Whitmire said officers were also “concerned” about the dangers of broken glass on roads.

“There is chaos in the city center. It’s dangerous because of the glass and the lack of traffic lights,” he said. “So stay at home. I can’t emphasize that, I repeat it often enough.”

More: How do thunderstorms form? Here you can find out what actually happens during storms.

Fire Chief Peña said most emergency calls to the fire department were to report broken pipes and gas leaks. “If you smell gas in your home, it could be potentially dangerous. “So please call 911 if you smell gas, but do so outside the building,” he said.

More than 900 customers of the utility company CenterPoint Energy lost their power, he said. For some residents, restoring power would take up to 48 hours. The company said on X that restoring full performance would require “days of recovery effort.”

More than 420,000 outages, or 20% of all electric accounts, were reported in the Houston area as of Friday morning, according to USA TODAY's national power outage tracker.

Houston Metro said Friday that shuttles would serve the Purple and Green train lines due to power outages and debris on the tracks. Morning commuters should expect travel delays.

Schools across the region closed their doors in response to the storm. Whitmire also urged downtown employers to allow their employees to work from home.

The threat of severe weather in Houston was marginal Friday morning, with cloudy skies and a few showers in the afternoon, according to the Weather Channel.

More: Four dead after severe storms in Texas; There is a threat of tornadoes and flooding in the southeastern United States

Storms will bring hail, rain and possible tornadoes to the Southeast

But the storm system will bring severe thunderstorms and excessive rainfall to the lower Mississippi Valley and Alabama on Friday and into the weekend.

“If you like rain and storms, the next two days are for you,” the National Weather Service in Birmingham posted on X Friday morning. Southern Alabama, including Montgomery and Selma, could see some tornadoes as the Area hit by hail and “damaging winds” of up to 60 miles per hour.

As the storm moves east, northeast Texas and parts of Alabama and Florida could be inundated with up to 8 inches of rain, potentially triggering severe flooding, according to AccuWeather.

Areas of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama could be at risk of flash flooding that night, the Weather Channel reported. There is an isolated threat of tornadoes in the area due to Saturday's devastating winds.

“Gusty winds and hail” would be the main threats in strong storms expected to hit parts of southeastern Mississippi, according to the weather service in Mobile.

Parts of Florida also suffered from strong winds Friday morning – the south coast near Tallahassee was hit by gusts of up to 70 miles per hour, the weather service reported.

Further south, temperatures reached record highs earlier this week. On Wednesday, a heat index of 115 degrees in Key West reached the region's previous record, AccuWeather reported.

That same day, temperatures in Miami reached 96 degrees, just two degrees below the record high for the month. The weather service warned that the city's heat index could rise into “triple digits” over the weekend.

Cybele Mayes-Osterman is a breaking news reporter for USA TODAY. You can reach her by email at Follow her on X @CybeleMO.

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