Fierce storms leave 120,000 Texans without power for days

Woman clearing debris in Houston
Buildings across the Houston area were severely damaged by hurricane-force winds during the storms. [Getty Images]

More than 120,000 people remain without power in Texas, days after fierce thunderstorms and a series of tornadoes swept across the state.

At least eight people were killed in the storms, which also battered the nearby states of Louisiana and Mississippi late last week.

In Houston, the power cuts have left many without air conditioning during sweltering heat and humidity.

In some areas, it could be days or weeks until power is fully restored.

Hurricane-force winds were recorded during the 16 May combination of storms known as a derecho, blowing glass out of high-rise buildings and toppling trees, cranes and power lines. Nearly one million people were without power over the weekend.

At around 15:30 local time (21:30 BST) on Tuesday afternoon, about 127,000 were still without power, according to Almost all of those, around 120,000 were in Harris County, which includes the major city of Houston.

At the same time, temperatures in the area were expected to rise to 91F (32C), with humidity levels of around 80% that would make it feel much hotter, and expected to hit 95F by Monday.

Alexis McCartney, a remote worker, still has no power. Working from home is "basically impossible", she told the BBC.

"It's been a huge, inconvenient experience, to say the least," she said. "We're in the prime of Texas's easy to work up a sweat."

Ms McCartney said she was worried that the power cuts could be a sign of things to come as the Houston area heads towards hurricane season, which runs from June to November.

"I am concerned with the power grid and how the infrastructure of this city can leave thousands of Houstonians without power for extended periods of time," she added. "It feels like a slap in the face."

The Houston area's main utility company, CenterPoint Energy, said on Sunday night that "extensive tree damage" and vegetation were complicating efforts to get power switched back on. It added that about 85% of its customers' power had been restored.

The company posted photos online showing downed trees and shattered fences, as well as power lines resting precariously on the sides of houses.

"We understand how difficult it has been for our customers who are going on five days without power," CenterPoint Energy's senior vice president for electric business, Lynnae Wilson said. "We will not stop until we get the job done."

Some customers, however, may have to wait for a long time.

Harris County Executive Judge Lina Hidalgo told Fox Weather that some residents served by downed transmission lines may "have to go a couple of weeks, most likely, without power."

On Monday, authorities in Houston announced that a man in his 60s died from carbon monoxide poisoning - possibly from a generator - bringing the total number of storm-related deaths to at least eight.

The other deaths included several people killed by power lines or falling cranes and trees, including a 31-year-old mother-of-four who died after a large tree fell on her car in Houston.

More than four dozen "cooling centres", where people can also charge phones and find food and water, have been opened across the city, according to the Houston Chronicle.

"I'm still without power," Alejandro Sanchez, a Mexican national who lives in Harris County, told the BBC in Spanish. "But things could have been much worse. I'm very thankful."