A powerful storm system took aim at the Gulf Coast on Tuesday, spawning a tornado that toppled power poles and power lines, overturned vehicles and tore roofs off homes in communities east of Houston. No serious injuries were immediately reported.
The National Weather Service had issued 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.
The storm damaged commercial buildings, homes and power lines in nearby 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. A gym appeared to have been destroyed.
Footage from Houston TV station KTRK showed that several businesses suffered extensive damage, including the city’s animal shelter. Nearby, fences were put over and shingles and parts of roofs were torn from homes, but there were no immediate reports of injuries.
In Baytown, there were downed power lines and damage to homes and businesses, but no reports of serious damage, Baytown spokesman Jason Calder said.
Strong winds damaged a chemical plant in Deer Park. Video from inside the facility shared with CBS News appeared to show debris falling from the roof. The person who shot the video told CBS News that everyone inside at the time is OK.
The Shell Chemicals site was flared, or burning with natural gas, after it lost steam due to severe weather, according to Shell spokesman Curtis Smith.
“We are taking steps to minimize 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 are there any indications that a nearby tornado has touched down at the Chemicals facility.”
The website PowerOutage.us, which collects outage data from power utilities across the United States, reported that about 83,000 Texas customers were without power Tuesday night, mostly in the Houston area and surrounding counties.
It was the start of what was expected to be a stormy day along the Gulf Coast. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said areas along the coast from Houston to the Florida Panhandle could see tornadoes, strong winds and hail on Tuesday.
The storm system also brought snow and ice to much of the central United States
Schools and businesses were closed Tuesday and Wednesday across Oklahoma, which saw between 1 and 6 inches of snow across 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. The snow extended as far northeast as Vermont.
Parts of Tennessee were shrouded in thick fog.