Tornadoes rip through Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas; at least 18 dead

By Seema Hakhu Kachru

PTI, May 27, 2024, 10:07 AM IST

Destroyed homes are seen after a deadly tornado rolled through the previous night, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Valley View, Texas. (Credit: AP photo)

HOUSTON: At least 18 people, including two children, have been killed in powerful storms that ravaged the states of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas in the central US, destroying homes and plunging thousands into darkness amid rising temperatures.

Seven fatalities were reported in Cooke County in Texas, near the Oklahoma border, where a tornado on Saturday night ripped through a rural area near a mobile home park, officials said.

“It’s just a trail of debris left. The devastation is pretty severe,” Cooke County Sheriff Ray Sappington said.

The dead included two children, aged two and five, and three members of a family, the sheriff said.

Sappington said the death toll was likely to rise as search and rescue operations were underway for some people who remained missing on Sunday morning.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Sunday said about 100 people were injured by the Saturday tornado, noting that the exact toll was ”hard to tell with certainty”, CBS News reported.

More than 200 houses as well as other buildings were destroyed and more than 100 others were damaged, Abbott said. ”I’d be shocked if those numbers do not increase,” the governor added.

A tornado tore apart houses and businesses, flipped mobile homes and knocked down trees and power lines. Areas near the community of Valley View were especially hard-hit. Valley View is about an hour north of Dallas by car.

The tornado overturned vehicles and shut down a stretch of highway in the greater Dallas area.

Officials said multiple people were transported to hospitals by ambulance and helicopter in Denton County, but the extent of their injuries was not immediately clear.

Valley View Police Chief Justin Stamps told CBS News on Sunday the death toll in that community could be as high as six.

Hugo Parra, who lives in Farmers Branch, north of Dallas, said he rode out the storm with about 40 to 50 people in the bathroom of a gas station.

More than 4,70,000 people were without power in states stretching from Texas to Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky, according to a power outage website.

Storms also killed two persons and damaged houses in Oklahoma, where guests at an outdoor wedding were injured.

At least eight people, including a 26-year-old woman who was found dead outside a destroyed home in Olvey, a small community in Boone County, were reportedly killed in Arkansas, according to Daniel Bolen of the county’s emergency management office.

Three people died in Benton County of Arkansas, the Arkansas Office of Emergency Management confirmed to CBS News.

Two people died in Oklahoma, Michael Dunham, deputy director of the Mayes County Emergency Management, confirmed to weather.com.

Dunham said search and rescue efforts were continuing, with teams going house to house.

Widespread damage was reported in Claremore, where 23 people were injured.

Nineteen of the injured, three with life-threatening injuries, were transported to local hospitals. The city was closed to traffic until noon on Sunday, except for residents with identification.

At least one death has been confirmed in Kentucky, according to a statement on social media by Governor Andy Beshear.

Sunday looked like the hottest day with record-setting highs for late May forecasts for Austin, Brownsville, Dallas and San Antonio, National Weather Service meteorologist Zack Taylor said.

Red Flag fire warnings were also in place in West Texas, all of New Mexico and parts of Oklahoma, Arizona and Colorado.

Humidity was very low, under 10 per cent, and wind gusts of up to 60 mph were recorded.

The system causing the latest severe weather was expected to move east over the rest of the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

More severe storms were predicted in Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee. A tornado emergency was in effect in Kentucky on Sunday night.

The risk of severe weather moves into North Carolina and Virginia on Monday, forecasters said.

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