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Tornado Strikes Near Houston as Severe Southern Storms Move East – The New York Times

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

Over 15 million people living along the Gulf Coast, including in Houston, New Orleans and Mobile, Ala., were at risk with the severe storms, which moved toward Louisiana after passing through Texas. About 65,000 customers in Texas and more than 27,000 customers in Louisiana had lost power by Tuesday night, according to PowerOutage.us, 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, which is about 19 miles south of Houston, just before 3 p.m., destroying the 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 damages 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 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 at 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 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 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.

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

By about 7 p.m. local time, 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.

A tornado watch remains in place until 1 a.m. 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 4 a.m. Wednesday.

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

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 of 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.

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, Va., to Jacksonville, Fla., could see tornadoes later this week.

Large hail is also a risk as these storms push through.

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.

Derrick Bryson Taylor and Jesus Jiménez contributed reporting.