Cleanup begins after microburst tears through Sealy

SEALY, Texas (KTRK) -- A powerful microburst was responsible for the destruction of 75 homes in Sealy late Tuesday evening, meteorologists have determined.

According to Jeff Evans with the National Weather Service, damage was consistent with wind speeds between 80 and 100 miles per hour, similar to the damage that an EF1 tornado could have caused.

"A tornado is like a straw into a storm -- it sucks air in and up. What we are dealing with is almost like the storm exhales and it all comes out at once," Evans said. "We typically don't see microbursts of this magnitude, so this is a very rare microburst."

VIDEO: SkyDrone13 over Sealy
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SkyDrone13 over damage in Sealy

In addition to the dozens of homes destroyed, several businesses sustained severe damage, officials said. The city's public works department will coordinate debris removal efforts over the next several days, but residents who are able to can bring their own debris to the waste management facility on Downey Road free of charge.

The city's electrical infrastructure was especially hard hit, with downed power lines strewn over I-10 causing a traffic headache for hours overnight, according to Sealy Police Chief Chris Noble.

As of Wednesday evening, more than 2,000 residents remain without power. Centerpoint, which has brought in a small army of workers to replace damaged lines, expects power to be restored by Friday.

While damage was widespread, only minor injuries were reported, and most of the injured parties were able to make it to the hospital on their own. Officials credit two large Sealy ISD events -- a high school senior awards ceremony and a junior high band concert -- with keeping many people out of the path of the storm.

Noble expects the city to be at a "good point" with cleanup efforts by Friday.

Although all Sealy ISD campuses and offices were closed on Wednesday, superintendent Sheryl Moore said graduation would proceed as scheduled on Friday.

Homeowner Mike Fisher recalls the moments before severe weather ripped through Sealy, causing massive damage throughout the town.

PHOTOS: Storm damage across SE Texas

Fisher's teenage son was on the other side of the house in his bedroom playing video games. Once Fisher heard the storm, he ran to the kitchen.

"It knocked me down when it blew the front walls out," Fisher said.

But he couldn't make contact with his son.

Fisher said for 45 seconds, he was screaming for him, trying to make sure he was OK. He said it was the longest 45 seconds of his life.

Fisher's son, Blaine, ran into the bathroom and huddled next to the sink, holding tight to his dog.

"I thought I was going to die," Blaine said.

It didn't last long, but it caused a lot of damage.

VIDEO: Overturned 18-wheelers in Sealy
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Severe storms overturned 18-wheelers in Sealy.

Traffic was backed up for miles behind the closure on both eastbound and westbound lanes as police refused to allow drivers to go backwards to exit the highway.

"The car started shaking from the wind," said Yolanda Rico, who was stranded on I-10 for eight hours. "The rain started to hit, and couldn't see in front of us. Pulled over."

Eyewitness News reporter Courtney Fischer spoke to a bar owner in Sealy whose business on Highway 36 was torn apart from the storm.

"It's still not real. It's surreal. I can't," Creekmore's Sports Bar owner Stephanie Litchauer said.

Litchauer fought back tears during her interview as she described the massive damage to her business while she looked up to see no roof above.

"All of the sudden, you couldn't see out the front door because it was just a massive hail," she said. "I looked towards the pool room and saw daylight. A customer grabbed me and threw me into the office. My husband was here and was helping other people take shelter in the bar. Everybody hunkered down."

There were about 20 people in the bar when severe weather rolled through, and fortunately, no one was injured.

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Residents cleaning up after a possible tornado ripped through the area.

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