Severe Weather Moves East After Tornado Strikes Texas

More than 20 million people in parts of the South, Midwest and Northeast were under winter storm warnings, a day after a tornado tore through communities near Houston.

A home is damaged on Kent Drive where a tornado was reported to pass on Tuesday in Pasadena, Texas.
Credit...Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle, via Associated Press

Judson JonesApril Rubin and

Judson Jones is a meteorologist and reporter for The Times.

A tornado tore through communities southeast of Houston on Tuesday, destroying a senior assisted living center near the city and causing other damage, as an intensifying storm whipped across the Gulf Coast and began sweeping northeast across the United States.

As the storm moved into Louisiana from Texas on Tuesday, three people were hospitalized with mild to moderate injuries after storms damaged mobile homes in an area northwest of Baton Rouge, The Advocate newspaper reported. A police official at the Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff’s Office confirmed the report but declined to provide other details.

A tornado watch affecting more than two million residents was in effect for parts of Alabama, Florida and Mississippi early Wednesday morning, and more than 124,000 customers in Arkansas and Texas had no electricity, according to PowerOutage.us, a website that tracks power failures.

The National Weather Service office in New Orleans warned that strong tornadoes and wind gusts of up to 70 miles per hour were possible along the Gulf Coast until about 6 a.m. Eastern time.

Rain, thunderstorms and flash flooding were possible in the Southeast on Wednesday, along with heavy rain across a corridor stretching from Virginia to Boston, the Weather Service said in a forecast. Heavy snow was also expected to hit parts of the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Wednesday and Thursday. More than 20 million people in those regions were under winter storm warnings as dawn neared on Wednesday.

After the storm hit Texas on Tuesday, emergency responders in Deer Park, about 19 miles south of Houston, and nearby Pasadena were removing debris from roadways and responding to calls for assistance.

The storm tore through Deer Park just before 3 p.m., destroying San Jacinto Manor, a senior assisted-living center, city officials said. No one was injured, and the city said it had been able to relocate the center’s 59 residents by Tuesday night.

Emergency responders were assessing damage in Deer Park, which included fallen power lines and damage to homes, said Mayor Jerry Mouton.

No injuries or deaths were reported, though the police department had said that dozens of calls were coming in and that assistance might take longer than expected.

Tornadoes in Texas and Louisiana

Locations of tornado sightings or damage reported by trained spotters.

Source: National Weather Service | Notes: Reports are considered preliminary. Data is for the 24 hours starting Jan. 25 at 7 a.m. Eastern, during which updates are being made every 10 minutes.

By John Keefe

Conditions were similar in Pasadena, a city next to Deer Park and about 14 miles southeast of Houston, where a tornado touched down about 2:30 p.m. It caused severe damage to homes and businesses but no reported fatalities, said Raul Granados, a spokesman for the Pasadena Police Department. The American Red Cross and Salvation Army were coordinating meal assistance and shelters for people had who lost homes.

The animal shelter in Pasadena sustained “substantial damage,” including a partial roof collapse, Sergeant Granados said. No employees were injured, and two dogs had minor injuries.

More than 70 animals were being transported to temporary shelters Tuesday night, Laura Mireles, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office said. Homes in two subdivisions were significantly damaged.

Flooded streets stranded a school bus from the Waller Independent School District, about 40 miles northwest of Houston, causing high school students to be transferred to another vehicle.

A Shell chemical plant in Deer Park was experiencing “flaring,” or controlled burning of gas that sends a flame out of a smokestack, because of a “loss of on-site steam” resulting from the severe weather, the company said on Twitter. The flaring did not threaten the community, said Curtis Smith, a spokesman.

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said he had directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management to prepare the state’s response resources, adding that the authorities at every level were at the ready. More than 100 flights were canceled and more than 500 were delayed on Tuesday at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, according to FlightAware, a flight-tracking company.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado emergency for suburbs east of Houston around 2:30 p.m. local time. A tornado emergency is “an exceedingly rare tornado warning issued when there is a severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage from an imminent or ongoing tornado,” according to the Weather Service.

In Louisiana, the governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness tweeted messages about storm safety. “We face another severe weather threat this week,” the agency said, urging residents to remain alert. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency sent similar messages about storm preparation.

Share of customers without power by county

10%
20
30
40
50
60
70
No data
Source: PowerOutage.us Notes:  Counties shown are those with at least 1 percent of customers without power. By The New York Times

New Orleans was hit by a deadly tornado last month as a series of storms swept the South. And last March, two tornadoes touched down in the area around the city, killing at least one person and leaving a path of destruction in their wake.

Scientists have been able to draw links between a warming planet and hurricanes, heat waves and droughts. The same can’t be said for tornadoes yet, even as scientists discover trends around tornadoes and their behavior.

Derrick Bryson Taylor and Jesus Jiménez contributed reporting.