At least 18 dead as tornadoes and storms batter central U.S.


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  3 weeks ago  •  0 comments

By:   Rebecca Cohen and Doha Madani

At least 18 dead as tornadoes and storms batter central U.S.
At least 18 deaths have been reported after a series of severe storms and tornadoes battered the South and the Great Plains over Memorial Day weekend, leaving hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses without power.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

At least 18 deaths have been reported after a series of severe storms and tornadoes battered the South and the Great Plains over Memorial Day weekend, leaving hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses without power.

Eight storm-related deaths were reported in Arkansas, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a news conference Sunday evening; seven storm-related deaths were reported in Cooke County, Texas; two in Mayes County, Oklahoma; and one in Louisville, Kentucky.

The dead in Arkansas included a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patient who depended on an oxygen concentrator that stopped working when power went out, Huckabee Sanders said. Other deaths included a person who died of a heart attack and another who perished when a downed tree or branch hit a trailer, she said.

Residents in Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee were hit with twisters, heavy winds and flooding in terrible conditions that began Saturday and moved into Sunday. Tornado watches and warnings were issued across multiple states Sunday night.

More than 334,000 customers were without power Sunday evening in Texas, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kansas, according to poweroutage.us.

Concerns about severe weather also delayed the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway by four hours. Spectators were asked to evacuate and take shelter; they were allowed back in after lightning cleared the area around 2 p.m. ET.

Later Sunday, NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 had to pull drivers back into the pit area after lightning in the area forced a weather delay in Charlotte, North Carolina.

240526-severe-weather-texas-2-0742p-7d6370.jpg Destroyed homes Sunday in Valley View, Texas, after a deadly tornado rolled through Saturday night. Julio Cortez / AP

In Arkansas, a 26-year-old woman was found dead outside a destroyed home in Olvey, a small community in Boone County, said Daniel Bolen of the county's Office of Emergency Management.

The weather service confirmed a tornado in Boone County on Sunday.

An additional death in Arkansas was reported in Benton County, one other was reported in Baxter County, and two more were reported in Marion County.

The eight deaths in Arkansas so far have added three to the weekend storm total for the U.S.

The dead in Texas were ages 2 to 72, Gov. Greg Abbott told reporters Sunday. They included two children, ages 2 and 5, and three family members who were found together in a home near the small community of Valley View, Cooke County Sheriff Ray Sappington said.

In addition, ambulances and helicopters took multiple people in Denton County to hospitals for storm-related injuries, officials said. The full extent of those injuries was not immediately clear.

Abbott described it as a "harrowing week" for Texans between the loss of life and the devastation in the area. More than 100 injuries were reported, and an estimated 200 structures were destroyed, he said.

About a third of the state's counties have been added to the governor's disaster declaration following recent storms, he said.

The National Weather Service has so far confirmed two EF-2 tornadoes in Texas — one that tracked across Montague, Cooke and Denton counties and another in Collin County.

240526-weather-oklahoma-arkansas-texas-wm-251p-87580d.jpg Storm damage at a shopping center in Rogers, Ark., on Sunday.Charlie Kaijo / The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP

One person died in Louisville, Kentucky, Mayor Craig Greenberg said Sunday on X, following "the severe weather that just moved through the area," and some structural damage was reported.

The man was believed to have been hit by a tree when he was found dead, NBC affiliate WAVE reported.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said in an update Sunday afternoon on X that though conditions had calmed some, another wave of storms was expected later in the evening. He also noted that at least five counties had declared states of emergency and that an estimated 213,000 customers were reported without power.

Beshear warned people to avoid flooded roads and reminded them to steer clear of downed power lines.

"We have gotten through at least the first part of this event, and we want to make sure we don't lose anybody else," he said. "So everybody out there stay safe, be very weather-aware as we go into tonight and late tonight."

Details about the two deaths in Oklahoma were not immediately available.

Violent nighttime storms

Violent storms overtook the region Saturday evening and overnight, overturning 18-wheelers, destroying homes, toppling power lines and crushing a Shell station in Cooke County, where dozens of people were trapped for a period Saturday night, Sappington told NBC News.

No serious injuries or deaths were reported at the truck stop in Valley View, and officials said 125 people who were seeking shelter inside had been evacuated by Sunday.

Monica Vasquez, her husband and their five children, ages 3 to 18, had just walked into their Valley View home after a graduation party when the storm passed over them.

"When we're coming home, we got an alert on the phone. I told my husband, 'Drive fast, because it says it's here.' So he started driving fast. We got home, got our babies out," she said.

As soon as they got in the house, she felt pressure in her ears. They hid in their closet and waited, listening to the wind for what seemed like forever, and felt their house move.

"That's when I thought me and my family were going to die," Vasquez said, getting emotional.

When they emerged, they saw through the light of their phones that their home of nine years had been destroyed. They plan to rebuild, which will be Vasquez's second time starting over, after a fire destroyed her previous home.

The National Weather Service ordered people to seek shelter as it observed a "tornadic circulation" over Ray Roberts Lake State Park, north of Dallas. The park said on its Facebook page Sunday that there was extensive damage within the park but that no injuries were reported.

"The storm came at a terrible time, when the parks were full of folks celebrating the Memorial Day Weekend," the Facebook post said.

240526-severe-weather-texas-0739p-07780f.jpg Powerful storms obliterated homes and destroyed a truck stop in Valley View, Texas, where drivers took shelter when a tornado hit Saturday.Julio Cortez / AP

In Oklahoma, guests at an outdoor wedding were injured by storm damage.

Multiple tornadoes and hail 2 inches in diameter were reported in Tulsa, according to the weather service, and six people were injured and taken for treatment in Mayes County, said Michael Dunham, the county's deputy director of emergency management.

In Benton County, Arkansas, "multiple" people were injured as a result of the storms, and emergency response teams were on search-and-rescue duty throughout the night, Sheriff Shawn Holloway said. And in Baxter County, "close to two dozen" people were taken to the hospital for injuries, including six children.

"We are still on search-and-rescue right now," said Melody Kwok, Baxter County's communications director. "This is a very active situation."

The final day of Bentonville's annual Bike Fest, which draws an estimated 15,000 people to the world's "Mountain Bike Capital," was canceled Sunday because of the severe weather.

"It's important that all of our attendees, partners, and staff remain safe and continue to shelter as directed, and continue to monitor local weather and public safety directives," the event's website said.

240526-weather-oklahoma-arkansas-texas-wm-252p-c91ce0.jpg Will Worthey, left, and Lindsey Worthey of Rogers, Ark., help clear debris from a downed tree Sunday.Charlie Kaijo / The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP

Huckabee Sanders, the governor, signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency Sunday afternoon, earmarking $250,000 from the governor's disaster relief fund for the Division of Emergency Management.

Weather threat continues

The severe weather was pushing north and east Sunday evening, affecting the Midwest and the Ohio Valley, including Chicago; Indianapolis; Nashville, Tennessee; St. Louis; and Cincinnati. Storms are expected to affect 42 million people in the region.

Organizers and authorities evacuated the Suenos Music Festival in Chicago's Grant Park as severe weather approached late Sunday afternoon. That followed a weather-related delay Sunday in opening the annual festival, which focuses on Latin hip-hop and reggaeton, according to NBC Chicago.

Tornado warnings were issued for multiple counties in Indiana and Kentucky. But more urgent "emergency" declarations were issued in Kentucky for the areas of Dawson Springs, Mortons Gap and Crider.

The Louisville Metro Emergency Operations Center said it activated its level one designation to monitor incoming weather Sunday night.

Flash flooding is a risk as the storms creep across the country, especially in the mid-Mississippi Valley, where 3 million people are under flood alerts, including in Memphis, Tennessee, and Tupelo, Mississippi.

The storms will continue to move east and finish off Monday on the East Coast, where a slight risk alert of severe weather was issued for the mid-Atlantic, including Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; and Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina. In that region, 27 million people are at risk of experiencing strong to severe thunderstorms.

Severe wind will be the main hazard to watch out for, but storms could produce large hail or tornadoes.

For the weekend, rainfall totals were expected to be 1 to 2.5 inches, with 3-plus inches possible in some areas.


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