Tornado strikes near Houston as severe weather moves east

Damage caused by a tornado seen in a video screengrab obtained from social media, in Deer Park, Texas, on Jan 24, 2023. PHOTO: REUTERS

HOUSTON - A tornado tore through communities southeast of Houston on Tuesday afternoon, destroying a senior assisted living centre in Deer Park and causing other widespread damage amid tornado warnings in Texas and across the South.

More than 15 million people living along the Gulf Coast, including in Houston, New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama, were at risk with the severe storms, which moved towards Louisiana after passing through Texas. More than 80,000 customers in Texas and nearly 32,000 customers in Louisiana had lost power by Tuesday evening, according to, a website that tracks power failures.

Emergency responders in Deer Park and nearby Pasadena were removing debris from roadways and responding to calls for assistance.

The storm tore through Deer Park just before 3pm local time and destroyed the San Jacinto Manor, a senior assisted living centre, city officials said. No one was injured, but the city, which is about 19 miles (31km) south of Houston, had yet to find shelter for the 59 residents who needed to be relocated.

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

No injuries or deaths were reported, though the Police Department had warned that “dozens of calls” were coming in and assistance might take longer than expected.

Conditions were similar in Pasadena, a city next to Deer Park and about 14 miles southeast of Houston, where a tornado touched down about 2.30pm. It caused severe damage to homes and businesses, but no reported severe injuries or fatalities, said Sergeant Raul Granados, a spokesman for the Pasadena Police Department. The American Red Cross and Salvation Army were coordinating meal assistance and shelters for people who lost homes.

The animal shelter in Pasadena sustained “substantial damage”, including a partial roof collapse, Sgt Granados said. No animals or employees were injured.

“We are in the process of temporarily housing all the furry friends with the help of rescue groups and neighbouring shelters,” he said.

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 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 spokesman Curtis Smith.

Forecasters with the Storm Prediction Centre at the National Weather Service had warned people in the region on Tuesday to anticipate potentially damaging winds and strong tornadoes.

By about 7pm, the Beauregard Parish of Louisiana, located along the western border of the state, was “receiving reports of multiple areas where water over roads” was becoming a hazard for drivers, the sheriff’s office said.

Emergency responders were assessing damages in Deer Park, which included fallen power lines and minor damage to homes PHOTO: REUTERS

A tornado watch remains in place until 1am local time on Wednesday for all of southeast Louisiana, the National Weather Service in New Orleans said. Severe weather, high winds and flash flooding will threaten areas of the state throughout the night until 4am on Wednesday.

More than 1,000 schools and almost 150 hospitals were within the exposure zone for the potential tornadoes in Louisiana, the service said.

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

The risk for severe weather will move to the eastern Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Coast on Wednesday into Thursday. Cities along the East Coast from Norfolk, Virginia, to Jacksonville, Florida, could see tornadoes later this week. Large hail is also a risk as these storms push through. NYTIMES

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