A strong storm system that moved across Texas on Christmas Day spawned at least three tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and brisk winds that knocked down trees, killing one person near Houston.
John Adams, meteorologist with KYTX CBS19, said it was the first time in his memory that snow fell in Tyler on Christmas Day. He estimated less than a half of an inch of snow fell on East Texas Tuesday evening, with higher concentrations along Interstate 30 and northern portions of East Texas and progressively less falling on southern portions of the area.
Adams said northern areas of East Texas had a better chance of the snow sticking around until Wednesday than southern portions, but most of the snow should be cleared up by Thursday afternoon.
Dispatchers with the Texas Department of Public Safety reported numerous wrecks on Interstate 20 as people traveled for the holiday.
In Whitehouse, a man crashed a truck into a home in the 400 block of Prince Charles Drive about 5:20 p.m.
Whitehouse Police Lt. Darryl McCartney said two men inside the vehicle were taken to a local hospital, but no one in the home was injured. He said the slick roads could have been a factor in the collision.
“(Drivers) really need to slow down on those slick roads and use caution,” he said.
Homeowner Angela Driggs said the truck went over the curve, through a fence and crashed into the brick wall of her home. She said the entire cab of the truck stopped inside her house, destroying a bathroom and two bedrooms.
The family was in the living room watching a movie when the incident happened.
Mrs. Driggs said the man was a neighbor and friend of the family and expressed concern for his well-being.
“Mine are all OK — praise God,” she said.
More than 20,000 customers in the Houston area were without power — down from a previous estimate of more than 70,000 — and nearly 20,000 more lost power in parts of East and Central Texas.
“There is high potential for more people to be out if we don’t get the wind and snow to stop pretty quickly,” Hill said Tuesday afternoon, adding the company was responding to outages as they were reported.
At least two tornadoes touched down in Trinity and Houston counties, said Greg Carbin, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center. Initial reports were that no one had been injured, but at least one building in Crockett had been damaged.
“They don’t look like they were all that significant, but there’s already some reports of tornado activity,” Carbin said.
Later Tuesday, Beaumont police said a resident reported seeing a tornado touchdown in the north end of the city. The twister did not cause any damage.
By mid-afternoon, the tornado and thunderstorm warnings had ended as the storm system moved into Louisiana. But as the cold front dipped southward, heavy snow began to fall in North Texas, including in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Freezing temperatures were even forecast for parts of deep South Texas by nightfall.
Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Thomas Gilliland said a 25-year-old man died after winds knocked a tree onto his Ford F-150 pickup truck about 9:40 a.m. The incident happened in northwest Harris County, he said.
The National Weather Service received reports of downed trees and small hail in Tyler and Hardin counties and quarter-sized hail north of Lufkin, according to meteorologists.
The storms developed as a cold front collided with warm air from the Gulf of Mexico.
“That’s what it takes is that contrast between the cold very dry air and the warm moist air that is readily available or at least never far away from the Texas Gulf Coast,” Carbin said.
Staff Writer Faith Harper contributed to this report