Seven dead after powerful storms slam Houston, Texas

Thunderstorms have killed seven people and left more than half a million homes and businesses without power in south-eastern Texas.

Residents in the area could be without power for weeks after Thursday's storm, which packed 110mph (177km/h) winds, said officials.

The deaths were mostly caused by downed trees and power lines and lightning.

The storm has moved on to neighbouring Louisiana with flood warnings in place for the Gulf Coast.

In an update on Friday night, officials announced the deaths of three more people, taking the toll to seven.

An 85-year-old woman died in a fire sparked by lightning, a 57-year-old man died trying to move a damaged electrical pole and another man who required oxygen was found unresponsive after he lost electricity.

Officials had said earlier that two people died from falling trees and another person was killed when a crane fell over.

Mother-of-four Christin Martinez, 31, was killed when a tree fell on her car.

"She told her husband that she wanted to go out and move the car because there's an old tree back there, very large tree, and she was concerned about it falling," said Houston Police Department Lt R Willkens.

"Unfortunately, when she got in the car, it fell when she was inside."

Mrs Martinez leaves behind three boys, ages 8, 10, and 12 and a baby whom she was still breast-feeding.

In Friday's news conference, Texas Judge Lina Hidalgo, the top government executive in Harris County, said that at least two tornados hit the region on Thursday night.

In Houston, traffic lights were out on Friday, office windows blown through and glass strewn across the city's streets.

The Houston Independent School District district cancelled school on Friday.

Flash floods and severe thunderstorm warnings were issued for multiple counties, according to Houston's National Weather Service office.

A police officer walks through storm damage
[Getty Images]

On Friday evening, about 600,000 homes and businesses were without electricity, down from nearly one million customers one day earlier.

The vast majority of outages were in Harris County, which contains Houston and is home to more than 4.7 million people.

Judge Hidalgo said the winds reached speeds the area had not experienced since Hurricane Alicia in 1983.

Blown out windows of building in Houston
The high winds from the storm that came through Texas blew out the windows of this Houston building. [Reuters]

Harris County libraries will remain open over the weekend to serve as cooling centres and provide electricity for residents, officials said.

Temperatures in Houston were mild on Friday, but were expected to climb over the weekend along with increased humidity.

The storm left 29,000 households without power in neighbouring Louisiana as of Friday evening.

Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Gulfport were at the highest risk for flash flooding, according to the National Weather Service.

This is the second time in six weeks that a deadly storm has swept through the Houston area. Last month a tornado hit the suburb of Katy, killing one person and injuring 10.