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Tornado causes 'catastrophic' damage near Houston

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A tornado struck near Houston on Tuesday, injuring one person and causing "catastrophic" damage to homes and businesses in Deer Park and Pasadena, Texas. Photo courtesy of TxDOT
A tornado struck near Houston on Tuesday, injuring one person and causing "catastrophic" damage to homes and businesses in Deer Park and Pasadena, Texas. Photo courtesy of TxDOT

Jan. 24 (UPI) -- The Houston area is assessing "catastrophic damage" after severe weather and a large tornado slammed the region Tuesday, injuring one person and destroying dozens of homes and businesses. Flash flooding closed roads, as crews work to restore power to 100,000 customers in the wake of the storm.

The tornado struck Tuesday afternoon 15 miles southeast of Houston in Pasadena and Deer Park, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a "Tornado Emergency" alert for the first time ever for the Houston area.

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The "exceedingly rare tornado warning" that is a "severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage" has been available in Houston since 2016, but was issued for the first time Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Only one injury has been reported, but the damage is significant.

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"In my 25 years here, this is probably the worst damage I've seen," Pasadena Police Chief Josh Bruegger told reporters.

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"We've seen plenty of damage. We've seen buildings that have collapsed," Pasadena Mayor Jeff Wagner said.

Deer Park Mayor Jerry Mouton said as many as 30 homes suffered major damage from the tornado while expressing relief that no one was killed.

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"There is one aspect of me that's amazed that no one got injured. I'm just grateful to God that He was able to protect life in here," Mouton said. "We will deal with the property and recover and rebuild."

The Atascocita Fire Department reported a structure collapse at a Deer Park nursing home. A gym in Pasadena also collapsed, trapping four people inside a restroom who escaped without injury.

The Red Cross opened a shelter Tuesday night in Pasadena and is working to open several more.

Schools in Deer Park and Pasadena have been canceled for Wednesday, and residents in Deer Park have been urged to stay off of the roads where there is significant flooding. TxDOT tweeted that crews have been busy rescuing people from flooded roads.

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The Pasadena Police Department also reported "several commercial trucks overturned" near Beltway 9, which circles Houston.

Tuesday's tornado also led to a flaring incident at Shell Deer Park Chemical Plant.

"We're currently experiencing an incident due to severe weather," the plant tweeted. "We're taking steps to minimize any noise, light or smoke associated with this flaring activity. This is being handled within the boundaries of this facility. There is no threat to the community."

According to the National Weather Service, the severe weather threat has ended for Texas as the storm moved east into Louisiana. A tornado watch was in effect Tuesday night for much of southern Louisiana, including New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

"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," Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Office in Louisiana said in a post as the storm moved east out of the Houston area.

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