Cleanup continues after storm hits southeast Texas

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HOUSTON (AP)- Officials and residents in southeast Texas on Tuesday began cleaning up and assessing the damage caused a day earlier by severe storms that spawned a series of tornadoes, flooded roadways and overflowed bayous and creeks.

Under sunshine and clear blue skies, residents of a Baytown apartment complex hit late Monday by a tornado salvaged what personal belongings they could.

“We heard (the tornado) and we all got scared. Then everybody started ducking,” resident Lucille Alfred said as she walked outside the apartment complex. “I’m just thankful to the Lord that nobody got hurt.”

As many as 21 tornadoes may have hit southeast Texas on Monday, said Charles Roeseler, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in League City.

Weather service officials spent Tuesday visiting 10 reported tornado sites, including locations in Houston and Chambers and Wharton counties, to verify if the destructive windstorms had indeed hit.

The Baytown apartment complex was hit by tornado with winds of 73 to 112 mph, Roeseler said. That’s an F1 on the Fugita scale, a system for measuring the severity of tornadoes. The tornado damaged 56 apartments and 12 nearby homes.

Many of the tornadoes were probably more on the high end of the F1 scale, Roeseler said.

Mark Hanna, spokesman of the Insurance Council of Texas, said preliminary estimates for the Houston area have the damage at between $25 million to $30 million. Damage estimates for other areas of southeast Texas were not immediately available.

Terry Moore, with Houston’s Office of Emergency Management, said officials were assessing damage in five areas that suffered either wind or flooding damage. One location inspectors visited Tuesday was a complex where at least 30 apartments were damaged by a tornado.

One resident, Ray Anderson, 63, spent Monday night in his Crown Victoria with his dog and his hamster.

`It’s a mess in there,” Anderson said of his apartment. “There’s one thing I can say: nobody got hurt. That’s one good thing.”

Strong winds damaged homes and buildings and uprooted trees in Fort Bend County, mostly in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land, said Gary Tilton, the county’s assistant emergency management coordinator.

Weather officials said an F2 tornado, which has speeds of 113 to 157 mph, damaged homes when it hit Meadows, a small town near Sugar Land.

Emergency Medical Services treated more than 50 people in Fort Bend County, mostly for minor injuries, and transported eight of them to area hospitals, Tilton said. There were no life-threatening injuries.

Roeseler said some rainfall totals for the area included: 7.43 inches in Clodine in Fort Bend County; 7.14 inches in Sugar Land; 6.10 inches in Liberty in Liberty County; and 5.19 inches at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.