Rare microburst, not a tornado, causes significant damage in Sealy

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Dozens of homes have been destroyed and just about as many power poles were ripped from the ground and left splintered.  With such significant damage some are finding it hard to believe it wasn’t a tornado that hit Sealy last night.  So what’s being blamed for the destruction?  According to the National Weather Service, it was an unusual windstorm -- a rare microburst that devastated Sealy.

"It was pretty terrifying,” says Lisa Barrett.  

"Probably 75 percent of the roof is messed up.  The sheds are gone.  It’s horrible. I ain’t never seen nothing like this in my life,” explains Keith Kulow.

“The storm came in very hard and very fast.  I was standing right behind here and just saw daylight from the roof peeling up,” says Stephanie Litchauer, owner of Creekmore’s Sports Bar.  Several customers were inside the bar when the roof was ripped right off.

With tree branches falling, rain covering her windshield and hail pounding her pick up, Lisa Barrett raced down the road to find her 15-year-old son.  "It was very scary.  You know when it’s your kid, nothing else matters.  (You had no idea where he was?)  No,” cries Barrett.

As the worried mother looked for her son, she kept repeating one thing.   "God just let him be alive. That’s all I kept saying, God just let him be alive," Barrett said. 

"I was in my cattle barn, feeding my cattle.  I thought it was just a regular rain storm.  Like I could just see outside the barn a little ways and that’s it.  (You couldn’t even see your house anymore?)  No,” explains Lisa’s son Cory Barrett.  So with the storm slamming Sealy, the 15-year-old covered his ears and rode it out in the barn that was taking a beating in the strong winds, hail and relentless rain.

What's powerful enough to do all of this, packing enough punch to uproot a 50-year-old oak tree in the Kulow’s backyard?  The National Weather Service says it was not a tornado but a microburst.

"How we make that determination, we look at the nature of the damage.  A tornado is actually like a straw into a storm.  It sucks air in and up.  What we were dealing with the wind damage it’s almost like the storm exhales and it all comes out and once,” explains NWS Meteorologist Jeff Evans.

"The width of it is estimated to be about two-miles wide, with wind speeds of up to 100 miles per hour.  The damage that occurred, the estimates we have are up to 75 houses destroyed,” says Sealy Police Chief Chris Noble.

"We typically don’t see microbursts of this magnitude.  So this is a very rare microburst,” adds Evans.

The Sealy superintendent says she was at a school event when the storm broke out and she tried desperately to let a woman into the building but the wind was so powerful no matter how hard she pushed and the woman pulled on the door they couldn’t get it open and the woman was left out in the storm, injured by hail and potentially blowing debris.

There are still 2,000 people without power.  Their electricity isn’t expected to be restored until Friday.

Sealy ISD says campuses and offices will reaming closed Wednesday and will resume a regular workday for staff on Thursday, May 25. Parents and students can pick up belongs from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Thursday at the campuses offices. Report cards and awards will be mailed.