PASADENA, Texas — A powerful storm system focused on the Gulf Coast Tuesday, spawning a tornado that downed power poles and power lines, overturned vehicles and ripped roofs off homes and businesses in communities east of Houston. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries.
The National Weather Service had declared a tornado emergency for that area, warning that a “large, extremely dangerous, and potentially deadly tornado” was on the ground Tuesday afternoon and headed toward Baytown, about 25 miles east of Houston. The warning expired as the system moved east, leaving cooler temperatures behind.
Strong winds damaged commercial buildings, homes and power lines in nearby Pasadena, a city southeast of Houston. Power poles and power lines were downed and several vehicles, including a trailer, were damaged or overturned in a parking lot.
Footage from Houston TV station KTRK shows major damage to several businesses, including the city’s animal shelter. Nearby, fences were knocked down and shingles and parts of roofs were ripped off houses, but there were no immediate reports of injuries.
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 reports of serious injuries, Baytown spokesman Jason Calder said.
Officials in nearby Deer Park said the tornado caused severe damage to a nursing home. Residents had to be evacuated, but no one was injured.
As emergency crews worked to restore power, Mayor Jerry Mouton Jr. of Deer Park to anyone needing a place to stay to look outside their town.
“There’s one aspect of me that’s surprised no one was hurt,” said Mouton. “We will handle and restore and rebuild the property.”
Many of the area’s suburbs have a large presence of petrochemical industrial sites.
The Shell Chemicals site in Deer Park was flaring, or burning natural gas, after it lost steam due to severe weather, Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said.
“We are taking steps to minimize any noise, light or smoke associated with this activity, although it is expected to continue until the units are restarted,” Smith said via email. “There is no threat to the community, nor is there evidence that a tornado has crashed into the Chemicals facility nearby.”
The website PowerOutage.us, which compiles live power outage data from utilities across the United States, reported that about 67,000 customers in Texas were without power Tuesday night, mostly in the Houston area 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 US
Schools and businesses were closed throughout Oklahoma on Tuesday, where central and eastern parts of the state received between 1 and 6 inches of snow. Several southwestern Louisiana school districts fired students early Tuesday in anticipation of severe weather in the area.