Strong storms spin tornadoes, flood streets

Published On: Jan 09 2012 06:05:06 AM CST   Updated On: Jan 09 2012 11:16:22 PM CST
HOUSTON -

Strong storms pounded the Houston area on Monday, flooding streets, spawning tornadoes and dropping hail.

"Whenever a thunderstorm is strong enough to produce hail, it's strong enough to produce a tornado. They almost go hand-in-hand" KPRC chief meteorologist Frank Billingsley said. "These heavy rains continue to push across Houston and into the east at 25 mph. Four inches of rain has been common south of Interstate 10. Although there's not much behind this system, we're going to continue to deal with this until 2 o'clock."

Fort Bend County was hit the hardest.

Sugar Land recorded the most rain with 5.40 inches. The Memorial City area had 4.24 inches. Pasadena logged 5.08 inches and downtown Houston had 4.60 inches of rain.

"We've got a lot of lightning with this system and that's also a big danger," KPRC meteorologist Anthony Yanez said. "There's a lot of heavy rain."

A suspected tornado touched down in Fort Bend County along FM 1093 and FM 723 shortly after 9:30 a.m. The Sheriff's Office said power lines and trees were down in the area.

"It came, it dipped down," one witness said.

Beverly Moore heard the tornado approach her house on FM 723.

"All the doors in the house were trying to open and shut. It sounded like a train going through, so we hid in the closet," she said. "It was definitely a tornado. We hid for about 15 minutes."

Winds also snapped some big trees, which fell on power lines. Utility workers spent the afternoon untangling the mess.

The winds also docked a paddle boat in high up in a tree. It had been in a pond below.

"We've heard of roof damage in a neighborhood," said a spokesman with the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office. "There's been quite a bit of flooding. There's been some hail but we haven't heard anything about injuries."

"I think they're probable," Billingsley said of the chance that tornadoes touched down. "(The National Weather Service) is going to look for eyewitnesses, and we have some of those, law enforcement included. They're going to look for the damage pattern. When you have damage in many different areas, that's more tornadic than straight-line winds. I'm pretty sure these were tornadoes."

Another place a tornado may have touched down is in the Kingsbridge Place neighborhood in Fort Bend County, where several homes were severely damaged.

Bricks, wood and shingles were torn off houses and garage doors were twisted and bent.

"I was actually sleeping when it all happened," resident Umair Sayyed said. "All you hear is it starts raining harder and you can feel the wind pushing inside the house. Then the door flies open and the ceiling starts leaking."

Other homes in the area were also damaged.

"It was like someone dropped a bomb," resident Archie Okono said. "I was so scared. I was about 2 yards away from the window and I hard something hit the window so loud."

The Richmond Fire Department helped residents evacuate around Third Street as water crept into houses.

"We've had reports of water in homes," said Alan Spears with the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management. "We had some boat evacuations going on.

A funnel cloud was spotted on Highway 99 shortly after 9 a.m., but there were no reports of it touching down.

Afternoon pre-kindergarten classes were canceled for the Lamar Consolidated Independent School District.

The Houston Independent School District canceled evening classes at Liberty High School, 6400 Southwest Freeway, Monday because of high water in the parking lots. The school district said it was not going to cancel after-school events, but individual campuses were permitted to make cancelations based on conditions in the area.

Morning showers are also possible on Tuesday, and Houstonians have a chilly week ahead.

"Our next freeze could come in on Friday," Yanez said.

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