7 dead in Houston area after storms and 100-mph winds

Seven people have died in Houston and the surrounding county after severe weather ripped down power lines and trees and toppled brick walls, officials said Friday.

Three of the deaths occurred in unincorporated Harris County, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said, and four were in Houston according to officials there.

Nearly 550,000 homes and businesses remained without electricity in Texas early Saturday — down from a peak of nearly 1 million but still a significant issue as the National Weather Service warned of temperatures soaring to around 90 degrees this weekend.

"Don’t overdo yourself during the cleanup process," its Houston service warned.

There was much to clean up after the deadly storms, though.

There was an EF-1 tornado with 110-mph winds in Cypress, and Houston saw straight-line winds that peaked at 100 mph, the National Weather Service said.

Image: Four Dead And Major Damage After Severe Storm Hits Houston Overnight (Logan Riely / Getty Images)
Image: Four Dead And Major Damage After Severe Storm Hits Houston Overnight (Logan Riely / Getty Images)

“This kind of wind is something we have not seen in Harris County since Hurricane Alicia in 1983,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the top government executive in the county, said at a news conference Friday.

Hurricane Alicia was a small hurricane but was a Category 3 when it made landfall near San Luis Pass on Aug. 18, 1983. It killed 21 people, according to the weather service, and total damage from it and its effects totaled more than $3 billion.

The three deaths in unincorporated Harris County announced Friday included a man who collapsed while trying to move a downed power pole; a woman who was found dead in a trailer after lightning hit it and caused a fire; and a man who was found dead after going to his truck to plug in an oxygen tank after the power went out.

Two of the four people who died in Houston were killed by falling trees, a third died when a crane blew over, and the circumstances of the fourth were not detailed at a briefing.

Houston Mayor John Whitmire said that the city experienced “an exceptionally strong storm" Thursday evening.

Both he and Hidalgo signed disaster declarations in the wake of the storms. The declarations allow additional authority and aid.

“Houstonians, stay at home tonight. The recovery will go through to tomorrow,” Whitmire said Friday. He compared the winds to Hurricane Ike that struck in 2008, and said there was "considerable damage downtown."

CenterPoint Energy said in a statement that outages from the storm peaked at around 922,000 homes and businesses.

Restoration in the hardest-hit areas could take days, the utility said.

There were nearly 550,000 customers without power in Houston as of around 2 a.m Saturday, according to poweroutage.us, and nearly 600,000 without power across the south. That includes outages in Louisiana, Florida and North Carolina.

Windows were blown out in buildings in downtown Houston. Trees crashed onto homes and winds ripped away parts of houses in other parts of the city. A roof over gas station pumps was thrown to the ground, taking the supports with it.

Kathleen Cox was in her home folding clothes and knew a storm was coming through. She doesn't hear very well, but thought she heard something and went to investigate.

“I just saw the tree in the house,” Cox said, pointing to the tree still leaning into her home Friday. "Oh dear, I don't need anything else in my life right now."

"It wasn't like this during any of the hurricanes," Cox said. "You know, trees were down but never completely uprooted like that."

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com