Emergency responders in the Houston area say they are responding to reports of damage and stranded motorists 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 Bruegger told reporters outside a damaged animal shelter in the city, where two dogs were injured.
Only one person had been reported injured so far in the city, Mayor Jeff Wagner said, but “we’ve seen plenty of damage. We’ve seen buildings that have collapsed.”
As the storm moved east, Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana posted on Facebook that officers are “responding to tornado damage” in the south of the parish.
“There are multiple roads blocked, power lines and poles down and heavily damaged homes and other structures with debris covering a lot of this area,” the office said.
In Pasadena, police chief said cleanup will require extensive work. “For the coming days, we’re going to have our hands full,” he said.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Department was “responding to a high number of stranded motorists,” Tuesday afternoon, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez tweeted. The department had prepared its high-water rescue vehicles ahead of the storm, he said.
There were reports of “several commercial trucks overturned” near Beltway 8, the beltway around the city of Houston, the Pasadena Police Department tweeted, and some power lines were reported to be down.
“Our officers and Fire Department are working towards assisting those people with who were immediately affected,” the department tweeted.
About 88,000 electric customers were without power in Texas Tuesday evening, almost all of them in the southeast corner of the state, according to PowerOutage.us.
In Deer Park, just to the northeast of Pasadena, the storm appeared to cause a train accident, Mayor Jerry Mouton said in a news conference. Video at the scene from CNN affiliate KTRK showed more than a dozen grain cars on their sides.
A nursing home sustained structural damage, and about 59 residents were being evacuated, Mouton told CNN.
An ambulance bus that was capable of carrying up to two dozen patients was dispatched to the scene as a precaution, according to Jerry Dilliard with the Atascocita Fire Department. There were no immediate reports of injuries, but Mouton said Tuesday evening that four of the 62 were taken to hospitals because of preeexisting conditions.
The Deer Park school district has canceled Wednesday classes as the community cleans up the storm damage.
A tornado emergency was declared earlier Tuesday for the southeastern metro area of Houston where “a confirmed large and destructive tornado was observed over northwestern Pasadena, moving northeast at 60 mph,” according to the National Weather Service in Houston.
Other locations in the path of this 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 evening and night, including Baton Rouge and New Orleans and affecting more than 3 million people.
“A few tornadoes [are] likely, with a couple intense tornadoes possible,” the Storm Prediction Center warned. Damaging wind gusts of 70 mph are also possible.