Severe weather threat moves east after tornadoes hit Texas
A winter storm that brought severe weather to the Gulf Coast and wintry precipitation to the north was headed east Wednesday, a day after tornadoes caused widespread damage in the Houston area and injured three people in Louisiana.
On Tuesday, forecasters issued a rare tornado emergency for the Houston area as the storm system moved through the heavily populated area. Substantial damage was reported in cities east of Houston, but there were no reports of injuries.
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 (20 to 30 centimeters) of snow, the National Weather Service said.
In Texas, 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.
In Baytown, there were downed power lines and damage to homes and businesses, but no reports of serious injuries, said Baytown spokesperson Jason Calder.
Officials in nearby 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."
Many of the suburbs in the area have a heavy presence of petrochemical facilities.
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."
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 (3 and 15 centimeters) 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.