Tornado emergency declared near Houston, damage reported

PASADENA, Texas. A powerful storm system hit the Gulf Coast on Tuesday, triggering a tornado that caused damage east of Houston.

The National Weather Service declared a state of emergency for the area, warning that a “large, extremely dangerous and potentially deadly tornado” hit the ground Tuesday afternoon and headed for Baytown, about 25 miles (40 km) east of Houston. The warning expired when the system moved east.

There were power outages and damage to homes and businesses in Baytown, but there were no reports of serious injuries, Baytown spokesman Jason Calder said.

Footage from Houston television channel KTRK showed damage to buildings and power lines in Pasadena, a city southeast of Houston, including the smashed doors of a Harley-Davidson dealership. Serious damage was caused to several businesses, including the city’s animal shelter. Nearby, fences were laid down and shingles and sections of roofs were torn off houses, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Shell Chemicals’ plant in nearby Deer Park was flaring natural gas after it lost steam due to adverse weather, Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said.

“We are taking steps to minimize any 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 public and there is no indication that a nearby tornado has touched a chemical facility.”

PowerOutage.us, a website that collects real-time data on utility outages across the United States, said about 123,000 Texas customers were left without power Tuesday afternoon, mostly in the Houston area and surrounding counties. .

This was the start of an expected stormy day on the Gulf Coast. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said areas along the coast from Houston to the Florida Panhandle could see tornadoes, high winds and hail on Tuesday.

The storm system also brought snow and ice to much of the central US.

Schools and businesses were closed Tuesday and Wednesday across Oklahoma, where total snowfall was 1 to 6 inches (3 to 15 centimeters) in central and eastern parts of the state. Several school districts in southwest Louisiana laid off students early Tuesday morning in anticipation of severe weather in the area.

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