Many residents displaced after tornado hits SW Houston apartment complex

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Two people are in the hospital after an apartment building partially collapsed due to a tornado early Sunday morning in southwest Houston.

The National Weather Service has confirmed through preliminary information that the apartment damage was caused by an EF-1 tornado with 100 mile per hour winds.

Building 22 is one of the 11 buildings condemned after the twister hit the Rockport Apartments in the 8500 block of Nairn around 6:30am.

Photos of damage from around the Houston area

Gerardo and Eunice Meran were in their upstairs unit and saved the most important things.

"I didn't really care about the electronics. Stuff comes and goes. Just my kids, man," Gerardo said.

We met the Merans while they got the last of their belongings out. Gerardo says for now they'll stay with family on the northeast side.

"Our lease ends next month, so most likely they're not going to do nothing about it. So we're just going to find somewhere else to live and move on."

For Jessica Solis and her family, it's more complicated.

"I'm from the valley, and we just recently moved here," she says. "So we really don't have any place else to go."

The units that were not severely damaged are without power, and will likely remain that way for several days. Authorities are encouraging those residents to find somewhere else to stay.

City leaders briefed residents late Sunday afternoon. Director of Housing and Community Development Neal Rackleff says it was intended to explain the options being provided: a Red Cross shelter, transportation to the shelter, and other assistance.

"Those buildings where you cannot stay tonight, the Fire Department and Police Department will be there with you to help you get some of your things so you can take them to the shelter or to wherever else you may choose to go," Rackleff told the residents.

But many of them walked away with the same questions they had before the briefing.

"The city has not told us how they're going to take care of us apart from just going to the shelter," lamented Uduak Akpauyo. "For how long will it be? How long will I be in the shelter?"

One man asked whether they'll be penalized for breaking their lease in order to find another place to live. Several co-signed his question.

"The city's legal department will work with the apartment owners to protect you," Neal Rackleff assured them.

One man in the complex has a unique survival story.

"(I am) very fortunate I escaped Hurricane Katrina, and I'm escaping this too," says Troy LeBlanc.

LeBlanc's building was not damaged. While many of his neighbors gather their things, he wonders if his stuff will be OK if he leaves until power is back on.

"We have 400 units. And I know they can't secure all 400 units," he says.

HPD will have officers in the complex for as long as the city says they need to stay to protect everyone's things from looters.

The city is also providing help for pet owners. BARC is accepting pets from this complex while people figure out their next place to live.
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