Storms kill 21 across four states in US

Published May 28, 2024
WRECKAGE is strewn across a property in Valley View, Texas, on Monday, a day after a deadly series of tornados hit the central United States.—Reuters
WRECKAGE is strewn across a property in Valley View, Texas, on Monday, a day after a deadly series of tornados hit the central United States.—Reuters

WASHINGTON: Tornado-spawning thunderstorms that swept the US southern plains and Ozarks have killed at least 21 people as of Monday morning across four states and wrecked hundreds of buildings, with forecasters warning of more severe weather.

The death toll over the Memorial Day weekend includes at least eight fatalities in Arkansas, seven in Texas, four in Kentucky and two in Oklahoma, according to tallies by state emergency authorities.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency early on Monday while the National Weather Service said a severe thunderstorm watch was issued for parts of Georgia and South Carolina until at least Monday afternoon.

“It was a tough night for our people,” the Kentucky governor said on social media platform X on Monday. He later said in a press briefing that “devastating storms” had hit almost the entire state. Officials said 100 state highways and roads were damaged by the storms.

530,000 customers left without power from Arkansas up to West Virginia

At least seven people perished — including two children aged two and five from a single family — and nearly 100 were injured on Saturday night when a powerful tornado struck communities in north Texas near the Oklahoma border, Governor Greg Abbott said at a Sunday news conference.

More than 530,000 customers were without power on Monday in states stretching from Arkansas up to West Virginia and south to Georgia, according to the website Poweroutage.us. Tornadoes are relatively common in the United States, especially in the centre and south of the country.

Late on Sunday, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the state had at least eight deaths after the storms. A resident in Arkansas suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease died due to a lack of oxygen when the power went out.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans faced power outages on Monday due to the weather, according to the Poweroutage.us tracking website, with Kentucky alone having over 180,000 outages.

In some areas, restoring power could take days, Beshear, the Kentucky governor said in a news briefing on Monday.

The National Weather Service warned of additional storms moving through the Ohio and Tennessee valleys, bringing damaging winds, large hail and more tornadoes, as well as heavy downpours capable of triggering flash floods.

The latest extreme weather came just days after a powerful tornado ripped through an Iowa town, killing four people, and more twisters touched down in Texas last week.

Meanwhile, the US was preparing for what government forecasters have called a potentially “extraordinary” 2024 Atlantic hurricane season beginning June 1.

Weather system

The system, which struck the Southern Plains region beginning late Saturday, overturned vehicles and ripped up homes, leaving a wake of deadly destruction in its path.

Storms were still likely to produce damaging wind and hail as they pushed eastward, part of the US Memorial Day holiday weekend, as well as possibly produce “isolated tornadoes” in the eastern Mid-Atlantic, the National Weather Service said.

The storms also caused “significant damage to the power infrastructure,” said Beshear, who declared a state of emergency, adding that it could be days until all power is restored.

The twister destroyed homes and a gas station, and overturned vehicles on an interstate highway in the Valley View area north of Dallas, Cooke County Sheriff Ray Sappington told reporters. Sappington called the damage “pretty extensive,” in an interview with The Weather Channel. Storm chasers shared impressive footage of tornadoes ripping up roofs and tearing through trees, causing power lines to spark and sending branches and debris flying.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2024

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