PASADENA, Texas – A powerful storm system targeted the Gulf Coast on Tuesday, spawning a tornado that downed power poles and lines, overturned vehicles and ripped roofs off homes and businesses in communities east of Houston. No serious injuries were immediately reported.
The National Weather Service had issued a tornado emergency for the area, warning that an “extremely dangerous and potentially deadly large tornado” was on the ground Tuesday afternoon and was tracking toward Baytown, about 25 miles east of Houston . The warning expired as the system moved eastward, leaving cooler temperatures behind.
High winds damaged commercial buildings, homes and power lines in the nearby city of Pasadena, southeast of Houston. Hydro poles and power lines were downed and several vehicles, including a trailer, were damaged or overturned in a parking lot.
Footage from Houston television station KTRK showed several businesses sustained significant damage, including the city’s animal shelter. Nearby, fences were put up and shingles and roof sections were ripped from houses, but no injuries were immediately reported.
The American Red Cross said it was opening a shelter in Pasadena.
In Baytown, there were downed power lines and damage to homes and businesses, but no serious injuries were reported, Baytown spokesman Jason Calder said.
Officials in nearby Deer Park said the tornado severely damaged a nursing home. Residents had to be taken away, but no one was injured.
As emergency crews worked to restore power, Deer Park Mayor Jerry Mouton Jr. urged anyone in need of a place to stay to look outside his town.
“There’s an aspect of me that’s amazed nobody got hurt,” Mouton said. “We will take care of the property and recover and rebuild.”
Many suburbs in the region have a strong presence of petrochemical industrial sites.
The Shell Chemicals location in Deer Park was burning or scorching natural gas after losing steam due to extreme weather conditions, according to Shell spokesman Curtis Smith.
“We are taking steps to minimize any noise, light or smoke associated with this activity, although it is expected to continue until units restart,” Smith said via email. “There is no threat to the community, and there is no indication that a nearby tornado touched down at the chemical plant.”
The PowerOutage.us website, which collects live data on power outages from utilities across the United States, reported that about 67,000 Texas customers were without power Tuesday evening, mostly in the Texas area. Houston and surrounding counties. The site reported about 28,000 outages in neighboring Arkansas and about 25,000 in Louisiana.
The storm system also brought snow and ice to much of the central United States.
Schools and businesses were closed Tuesday in Oklahoma, which saw total snowfall between 1 and 6 inches in the central and eastern parts of the state. Several school districts in southwest Louisiana dismissed students early Tuesday in anticipation of severe weather in the region.