A winter storm developing across the South on Tuesday will bring the risk of severe storms to over 15 million people living along the Gulf Coast, including in Houston, New Orleans and Mobile, Ala.
Forecasters with the Storm Prediction Center at the National Weather Service warned people in the region on Tuesday to anticipate potentially damaging winds and strong tornadoes.
A tornado emergency warning was issued by the Houston National Weather Service this afternoon for a large and extremely dangerous tornado confirmed by radar in southeastern Harris County. It was the first on record for the agency’s Houston office, meteorologists said.
The severe storm threat will continue to move east along the Gulf Coast through the evening.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said he had directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management to prepare the state’s response resources, adding that the authorities at every level were at the ready. At least three dozen flights were canceled and hundreds were delayed at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, according to FlightAware, a flight-tracking company.
The National Weather Service issued a tornado emergency for suburbs of east of Houston around 2:30 local time. A tornado emergency is “an exceedingly rare tornado warning issued when there is a severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage from an imminent or ongoing tornado,” according to the Weather Service.
In Pasadena, Texas, a suburb southeast of Houston, the city’s police department said on Twitter that police officers and the fire department were assisting people who were affected by a tornado that touched down on the southeast side of Pasadena. The department warned that “dozens of calls” were coming in and assistance might take longer than expected.
In Louisiana, the governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness tweeted messages about storm safety. “We face another severe weather threat this week,” the agency said, urging residents to remain alert. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency sent similar messages about storm preparation.
The risk for severe weather will move to the eastern Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Coast on Wednesday into Thursday. Cites along the East Coast from Norfolk, Va., to Jacksonville, Fla., could see tornadoes later this week.
Large hail is also a risk as these storms push through.
New Orleans was hit by a deadly tornado last month as a series of storms swept the South. And last March, two tornadoes touched down in the area around the city, killing at least one person and leaving a path of destruction in their wake.
Derrick Bryson Taylor and Jesus Jiménez contributed reporting.