PASADENA, Texas (AP) — A powerful storm system slammed into the Gulf Coast Tuesday, sparking a tornado that toppled utility poles and power lines, overturned vehicles and tore roofs off homes and businesses in communities east of Houston . No serious injuries were immediately reported.
The National Weather Service issued a tornado emergency for that area, warning that a “large, extremely dangerous and potentially deadly tornado” was stalled Tuesday afternoon and headed toward Baytown, about 25 miles (40 kilometers ) east of Houston. . The warning expired as the system moved east, leaving cooler temperatures behind.
Strong winds damaged commercial buildings, homes and power lines near Pasadena, a city southeast of Houston. Utility 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 suffering heavy damage, including the city’s animal shelter. Fences and shingles were up and parts of roofs were ripped from homes nearby, but there were no immediate reports of injuries.
The American Red Cross said it is opening a shelter in Pasadena.
In Baytown, power lines were down and there was damage to homes and businesses, but no serious injuries were reported, Baytown spokesman Jason Calder said.
Officials near Deer Park said the tornado caused major damage to a nursing home. The 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 who needs a place to stay to watch outside his city.
“There’s a part of me that’s amazed no one was hurt,” Mouton said. “We will take care of the property, recover and rebuild.”
Many of the area’s suburbs have a strong presence of petrochemical industry sites.
Shell Chemicals’ Deer Park facility was burning or flaring natural gas after losing steam due to bad weather, 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 facilities are restarted,” Smith said via email. “There is no threat to the community and no indication that a nearby tornado touched down at the chemical plant.”
The website PowerOutage.us, which collects real-time data on utility outages across the United States, reported that about 67,000 customers in Texas were without power Tuesday evening, mostly in the Houston area and surrounding counties. The site reported about 28,000 outages in nearby Arkansas and about 25,000 in Louisiana.
The storm system was also bringing snow and ice to much of the central United States
Schools and businesses were closed Tuesday in Oklahoma, where snow fell between 1 and 6 inches (3 and 15 centimeters) in central and eastern parts of the state. Several school districts in southwest Louisiana dismissed students early Tuesday in anticipation of severe weather in the area.
Murphy reported from Oklahoma City.