Hundreds displaced after tornado hits SW Houston apartment complex

HOUSTON – Houston Mayor Annise Parker spent Memorial Day visiting the hundreds of people displaced after a tornado struck the Rockport Apartment Homes in southwest Houston on Sunday.

The National Weather Service confirmed an EF-1 tornado packing winds up to 100 mph hit the apartment complex just after 6:30 a.m. Sunday.

Eleven of the apartment complex's 24 buildings have been deemed unlivable after the storm tore the roofs off of multiple buildings. Of the 11 buildings, which contain 252 apartments, we're told three of the buildings may have to be demolished altogether.

As of Monday, officials still did not know when the power will be back on and residents were advised to not stay the night at the complex, though it was not required.

The city said displaced residents will receive assistance.

"The Housing Department is here on site, as well as the Health Department, going through assessments. Anyone in those three buildings will be assisted with new residences. We have the resources set aside to help with moving costs, first month's rent, getting them settled," said  Parker.

"We'll try to identify the residents we have from those buildings, get them over with our fire department personnel, go into the building, tell us if they're able to move their property now or if they're not," said Christopher Newport, with the Mayor's Office.

After being absent from the tornado scene all day Sunday, the apartment complex management company sent electrical workers and construction workers to try and restore power and clear debris on Monday.

The twister cut through the heavily populated complex in the 8500 block of Nairn Street, near S. Gessner Road. The Houston Fire Department said there were hundreds of families in their apartments when the tornado hit.

Two people were rushed to the hospital for treatment for minor injuries and observation.

Jessica Reyes, 21, said she and her three children were awakened by several windows in their second-floor apartment being shattered by flying debris from other buildings.

A large piece of the roof from the building across the parking lot came crashing  through her child's bedroom window.

"It was pretty scary (because) I just saw all of the glass everywhere, all over the floor and my children are right there and I was concerned they would get cut by all that glass," Reyes said.

As of Monday, no less than 14 city departments were on scene providing aid to the tornado victims, including free legal advice, medical care, temporary shelter and help finding permanent homes.

Houston Housing and Community Development Director Neal Rackleff was there as well, helping answer residents' questions and arranging buses to take people to an emergency Red Cross shelter at the Chinese Community Center at 9800 Town Park Lane.

"It is just plain wrong that no one from the apartment management company or the owner himself showed up," Rackleff said.

KPRC 2 tried to reach the owner of The Rockport Apartment Homes by phone Sunday, but was unsuccessful.

One woman, 26-year-old Guadalupe Ramirez, is now displaced.

Her second-story apartment was ripped to shreds by the tornado and now she and her three children are living at a temporary Red Cross shelter.
 
"My children are wearing donated clothes from the Red Cross, it's all we have, we have nothing, nothing, nothing," Ramirez said.

Houstonians who want to help those affected can donate financially to the American Red Cross at http://redcross.org/tx/houston  or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

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(Photo by KPRC 2 photojournalist Allen Reid)


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