HOUSTON – The National Weather Service in Houston issued a Tornado Emergency for the first time in the office's history Tuesday for a twister that tore the southeast side of the Houston metro area.
The tornado was reported by both spotters and was confirmed by radar, according to NWS officials. Reports of tornadoes traveled east into the evening in Louisiana.
Pictures and videos show the damage that was left behind.
"Holy crap. I've got a tornado on the ground right in front of me," said storm chaser Brad Arnold. "People are driving right into it. Hold on, it's going to get wild."
Arnold ordered the driver to stop and pull over as a large tornado crossed the road before them in Taylor Landing, Texas near Beaumont.
In the afternoon, winds blew over a tractor-trailer on one of the Houston's major interstates.
The tempest tried to toss a truck over the median on the Beltway in Pasadena, Texas.
Residents of Pasadena, a suburb on the southeast side of Houston, found buildings torn and pieces of them scattered across parking lots as they emerged from their shelters.
"In my 25 years here, this is probably the worst damage I've seen," said a police official at a press conference in Pasadena. "Just catastrophic."
He said one person was hurt.
Winds damaged the Pasadena Animal shelter, said Pasadena police. A couple of dogs were injured. The shelter moved all 70 animals to another facility for safety.
Storm chaser Jacob Hale was one of the first to photograph some of the Pasadena damage.
"I haven't seen anything like this before, especially in our area. And, you know, you got to remember, we're used to hurricanes down here," said 20 year veteran Houston Fire Department Captain Ryan Lee. "So, yeah, the houses are built for hurricanes. Obviously, you can't build much for tornadoes when it comes to the house."
"That debris ball looked to be at least a mile to a mile and a half wide," said FOX Weather's Ian Oliver.
Radar can show solid objects are lofted into the air. Meteorologists call the signature a debris ball.
A storm spotter reported several injuries in Deer Park after winds blew trees onto homes and cars. Emergency crews came en masse to attend to residents.
Lee said that those are busses that can transport up to 17 patients. He told FOX Weather that a large ambulance transported several residents from a damaged nursing home to a hospital.
Shocked residents started the monumental chore of cleaning up when the wind and rain subsided in the Houston Metro area.
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Trees and power lines littered roads in the area. Nearly 120,000 customers lost power just after the storm.
Before sunset, the media took an aerial tour. Some homes and buildings were flattened. Overhead, a roof was missing, and we could look into rooms.
A Pasadena home lost a second-floor bedroom.
Near Deer Park, Texas, a bank drive-through was ravaged as tornadic winds squeezed through, stripping the roof.
Gas station canopies were no match for the storm.
The videographer said, "Totally destroyed this gas station."
In some areas, 2-5 inches of rain fell, according to radar estimates. Panicked parents rushed to pick their kids up from school and had to drive through a river. Watch the wake of a passing car wash over the hood of the photographer's car.
The parent Tweeted, "This isn't even the worst of it, I just couldn't tape anymore."
The Texas Department of Transportation wasted no time blocking off flooded underpasses. This was in Wayside.
An intrepid driver managed to keep going down the road during the height of the storm's intensity in a Tornado Warning. He was one of the few left on the road. Take a look at the line of cars that pulled off to wait it out.
Storm chasers followed the line of storms into Louisiana in the failing daylight after sunset.