Emergency responders in the Houston area say they are responding to reports of damage and stranded drivers after a possible tornado moved through the area Tuesday.
Structural damage from a tornado in Pasadena, about 15 miles southeast of Houston, is “catastrophic,” according to the local police chief.
“In my 25 years here, this is probably the worst damage I’ve seen,” Chief Josh Bridger told reporters outside a damaged animal shelter in the city, where two dogs were injured.
Only one person has been reported injured in the city so far, Mayor Jeff Wagner said, but “we’ve seen a lot of damage. We saw buildings that have collapsed.”
As the storm moved east, the Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana posted on Facebook that officers were “responding to tornado damage” to the south of the parish.
“There are many roads blocked, power lines and poles down, and heavy damage to homes and other structures with debris covering much of this area,” the office said.
In Pasadena, the police chief said the cleanup will require extensive work. “For the next few days, we will have our hands full,” he said.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Department was “responding to a large number of stranded motorists,” Sheriff Ed Gonzalez tweeted Tuesday afternoon. The department had prepared high-level rescue vehicles before the storm, he said.
There were reports of “multiple commercial trucks overturned” near Beltway 8, the belt around the city of Houston, the Pasadena Police Department tweeted and it was reported that some power lines were down.
“Our officers and the Fire Department are working to assist these people who were affected immediately,” the department tweeted.
About 88,000 electric customers were without power in Texas Tuesday afternoon, nearly all in the southeast corner of the state, according to PowerOutage.us.
In Deer Park, just northeast of Pasadena, the storm appeared to cause a train wreck, Mayor Jerry Mouton said at a news conference. Video from the scene by CNN affiliate KTRK they showed over a dozen grain cars on their sides.
A nursing home suffered structural damage and about 59 residents were evacuated, Mouton told CNN.
An ambulance that could carry up to two dozen patients was dispatched to the scene as a precaution, according to Jerry Dillard with the Atascocita Fire Department. There were no immediate reports of injuries, but Mouton said Tuesday night that four of the 62 were taken to hospitals because of pre-existing conditions.
The Deer Park School District canceled classes Wednesday as the community cleans up damage from the storm.
A tornado emergency was declared earlier Tuesday for the southeast Houston metro area, where “a confirmed large and damaging tornado was observed over northwest Pasadena, moving northeast at 60 mph,” according to the National Weather Service in Houston.
Other locations in the path of that tornado included Deer Park, Baytown, Highlands and Channelview, according to the weather service.
A tornado watch is in effect for much of southern Louisiana Tuesday night and into Tuesday night, including Baton Rouge and New Orleans, affecting more than 3 million people.
“A few tornadoes [are] likely, with two strong tornadoes possible,” the Storm Prediction Center warned. Damaging wind gusts of 70 mph are also possible.