Tornado in Pasadena, Deer Park preliminarily rated as EF3, NWS confirms

Travis Herzog Image
Wednesday, January 25, 2023
ABC13 walks you through timeline and path of historic tornado event
Eyewitness News chief meteorologist Travis Herzog walks you through the path and timing of destruction from the historic tornado event that blew through southeast Texas.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The National Weather Service confirmed the tornado that pounded Pasadena and Deer Park on Tuesday will be preliminarily rated as an EF3.

The NWS characterized it with an estimated maximum path length of 18 miles, maximum path width of 0.66 miles, and a maximum wind speed of 140 mph.

Earlier Wednesday, the NWS said the damage seen by surveyors were consistent with at least an EF2 tornado. ABC13 chief forecaster David Tillman said the debris signature on the radar and the precise linear damage path proves that.

Jeffry Evans, the meteorologist-in-charge with the National Weather Service of Houston and Galveston described the tornado as possibly being a half-mile wide, which is considered to be very large.

In areas across Pasadena and Deer Park, damage appeared to be sporadic. For example, video shows one home heavily damaged while the home right next to it received little or no damage. David Tillman explains that's because large tornadoes like that one are actually three or four smaller tornadoes rotating around a common center. Those smaller tornadoes are called suction vortices.

So, when a fast-moving tornado like the one that touched down on Tuesday, one house receives destruction while the one next to it is saved. Had it been a slow-moving tornado of maybe 25 miles per hour, there would have been much more damage, David explains. He estimates the tornado in Pasadena and Deer Park reached speeds above 40 and possibly approached 50 miles per hour.

An aerial view of the aftermath showed homes and schools destroyed. Some homes completely lost their roofs, while others were smashed by trees and debris.

ABC13's weather team warned us for days about the possibility of Tuesday's severe weather, tornadoes, and flash flooding. We ended up with the first Tornado Emergency ever issued by the National Weather Service in southeast Texas.

The circulation first prompted a Tornado Warning at about 1:45 p.m. as it approached Sienna in Fort Bend County southwest of Houston. Additional warnings were issued as it crossed through Pearland, with the National Weather Service calling it a radar-confirmed tornado due to debris detected by Doppler radar.

As the circulation crossed inside the Beltway near I-45, it grew larger and stronger, prompting the Tornado Emergency issued at 2:24 p.m. Because the tornado was wrapped in heavy rain, it was nearly impossible to see from the ground. Still, Doppler radar showed a well-defined debris ball crossing through Pasadena and Deer Park before it crossed the Houston Ship Channel at about 2:30 p.m. After that, the circulation became less pronounced, but a tornado warning remained until 3 p.m. when it moved past Mont Belvieu in Chambers County.

National Weather Service damage assessment crews will be busy all day Wednesday investigating the damage to determine the path and strength of the tornado.

For weather updates, follow Travis Herzog on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For news updates, follow David Tillman on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.