PASADENA, Texas - The National Weather Service said the tornado that hit the Houston area on Tuesday was EF-3 strength and tracked on the ground for 18 miles.
After learning how powerful it was and how far it traveled, it seems even more amazing that no one was seriously hurt or killed, but the damage is widespread.
The tornado touched down in southeast Houston, near I-45, and moved northeast through Pasadena, Deer Park, and Baytown.
On Tuesday, forecasters issued a rare tornado emergency for the Houston area as the storm system moved through the heavily populated area.
Home surveillance footage captured the power of Tuesday’s tornado that tore through a stretch of the Houston-area.
Sunlight on Wednesday illuminated the damage it left behind.
Several businesses in Pasadena, east of Houston, sustained major damage, including the city’s animal shelter. Nearby, fences were blown over and shingles and sections of roofs were torn from homes. The American Red Cross said it was opening a shelter in Pasadena.
"We went down into our interior hallway. The closet there, and then we hear this big bang and I'm pretty sure that was that coming into the roof," Pasadena resident Joanne Owens said.
Several homes in a Pasadena neighborhood had severe damage to their roofs. One was completely gone.
"My little one, he's always in his bed watching stuff, thankfully he wasn't in there," Pasadena resident Isa Aguilar said.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner toured what's left of an apartment complex on Wednesday. Some 300 units at Beamer Place Apartments were severely damaged by a confirmed EF-3 tornado that tore through the area.
"No one was seriously injured was just miraculous," he said. "We'll be providing added security for these facilities for this apartment complex."
But residents have been forced to relocate due to unsafe conditions.
"The size of [the tornado] is very rare for our area to have a tornado on the ground this long. It's really been since 1992," NWS Houston Meteorologist Jeff Evans. "We were very fortunate not to have any injuries or fatalities."
The Houston Fire Department searched the complex twice and have looked inside crushed cars that were tossed around by winds that likely reached 135 miles per hour.
"We will be out today to conduct a third search to make sure we didn't miss anything," said Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena. "Visibility was bad last night."
The city of Deer Park was also hit. Folks spent the day boarding up broken windows and cleaning up debris.
Officials in Deer Park said the tornado did severe damage to a nursing home. Residents had to be taken away, but no one was hurt.
"There is one aspect of me that’s amazed that no one got injured," Deer Park Mayor Jerry Mouton Jr. said as emergency crews worked to restore power. "We will deal with the property and recover and rebuild."
Neighboring Pasadena suffered widespread damage too.
"Our biggest issue right now are downed power lines and polls and traffic control issues. Of course, we have lights out," said Pasadena Police Chief Josh Bruegger.
Pasadena Mayor Jeff Wagner said their shelter is full. The city is working to open up a second location.
"It took the path it wanted to take, and no one could stop it," he said. "And we know that from the damage we see."
The Salvation Army is providing hot meals so approximately 300 displaced residents.
A big concern is the city's animal shelter. The roof was ripped off.
"We know there were over 200 animals in the shelter," he said. "Only two or three were injured. None life-threatening, thank goodness."
Governor Greg Abbott said the Texas Department of Emergency Management is assisting.
"We are working with all of the local officials to make sure that they have access to all the resources that they need," he said.
The state is urging storm victims to report their damage online so there is greater likelihood the region might qualify for a federal disaster declaration.
"We're currently working with the department of insurance to have a one-stop location in each city so that people can go down and get their insurance claims processed as quickly as possible," Abbott said.
Many of the suburbs in the area have a heavy presence of petrochemical facilities.
Tornado damage in Harris County on Jan. 24, 2023
Shell Chemicals’ location in Deer Park was flaring, or burning off natural gas, after it lost steam because of severe weather, according to Shell spokesperson Curtis Smith.
"We are taking steps to minimize any noise, light, or smoke associated with this activity, though it’s expected to continue until the units are restarted," Smith said via email. "There is no threat to the community, nor are there any indications a nearby tornado touched down within the Chemicals facility."
In Louisiana, three people suffered "mild to moderate injuries" when their mobile homes were flipped or destroyed after a tornado hit the Morel Lane area north of Baton Rouge, the Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff’s Office said.
The storm on Wednesday was expected to bring damaging winds to parts of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, forecasters said. Winter weather advisories stretched from southern Missouri to Maine, with areas of New England expected to see 8 to 12 inches of snow, the National Weather Service said.
The storm system was also bringing snow and ice to much of the central U.S.
Schools and businesses remained closed Wednesday in parts of Oklahoma, which saw snowfall totals of between 1 and 6 inches across central and eastern parts of the state. More than 160,000 homes and businesses were without power Wednesday morning in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri after heavy snow fell in the Ozarks a day earlier.