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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Edward Helmore and agencies

At least 21 people dead as storms leave path of destruction across central US

A home damaged by a storm on Saturday in Pryor, Oklahoma.
A home damaged by a storm on Saturday in Pryor, Oklahoma. Photograph: Mike Simons/AP

Powerful storms were moving into the eastern half of the US on Monday, after killing at least 21 people, injuring hundreds, obliterating homes, and leaving a path of destruction that spread across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas over the Memorial weekend.

As the weather system moved into Georgia, the Storm Prediction Center issued a severe thunderstorm watch for more than 7 million people in the state and South Carolina. Heavy rain is expected to drench parts of the east coast, where damage from strong winds is also possible. Intense heat will also hit parts of the south.

All told, more than 120 million are under extreme weather alerts, concentrated over the east coast, where officials are urging people to take precautions.

Weather deaths over the weekend were reported in four states, including eight in Arkansas, seven in Texas, two in Oklahoma and two in Kentucky.

On Monday, more than 187,000 customers were without power in Kentucky, according to the tracking website About 84,000 customers were without power in Alabama; 74,000, West Virginia; 70,000, Missouri; and 63,000, Arkansas.

The Indianapolis 500 started four hours late after a strong storm pushed into the area, forcing Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials to evacuate about 125,000 race fans. In Oklahoma, inaccessible roads and downed power lines also led officials in the town of Claremore, near Tulsa, to announce that the city was “shut down”.

A corridor of devastation running from north of Dallas to the north-west corner of Arkansas, recorded the highest concentration of death and destruction.

The Kentucky governor, Andy Beshear, declared a state of emergency early on Monday in a post on the social media platform X, citing “multiple reports of wind damage and tornadoes”.

Seven deaths were reported in Cooke county, Texas, near the Oklahoma border, where a tornado on Saturday night plowed through a rural area near a mobile home park, the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, said at a news conference on Sunday.

The dead included two children, ages two and five. Three family members were found dead in one home, according to the county sheriff.

About 100 people were injured and more than 200 homes and structures destroyed, Abbott said, sitting in front of a ravaged truck stop near the small agricultural community of Valley View. Winds in the area reached an estimated 135mph, officials said.

“The hopes and dreams of Texas families and small businesses have literally been crushed by storm after storm,” Abbott said. Texas has seen successive bouts of severe weather, including storms that killed eight people in Houston earlier this month.

Hugo Parra, who lives in Farmers Branch, north of Dallas, said he rode out the storm with 40 to 50 people in the bathroom of the truck stop. The storm sheared the roof and walls off the building, mangling metal beams and leaving battered cars in the parking lot.

“A firefighter came to check on us and he said, ‘You’re very lucky,’” Parra said. “The best way to describe this is the wind tried to rip us out of the bathrooms.”

In nearby Carrollton, Kevin Dorantes, 20, said that when he learned a tornado was bearing down he called his father and brother and told them to take cover in the windowless bathroom. They survived but he later found two people in a smashed house in the neighborhood.

“They were conscious but severely injured,” Dorantes said.

Storms also killed two people and destroyed houses in Oklahoma, where the injured included guests at an outdoor wedding, eight people in Arkansas and two people in Kentucky.

An Arkansas state emergency official said two of the deaths were attributed to the circumstances of the storm but not directly by the weather. One died from a heart attack, another when they were deprived of oxygen when the power went out.

In Kentucky, a man was killed on Sunday in Louisville when a tree fell on him, and in Oklahoma, two people died in Mayes county, east of Tulsa.

The deadly spate of weather-related destruction comes as the highest hurricane season forecast was issued by the national oceanographic and atmospheric administration forecasters on Thursday with eight to 13 hurricanes and 17 to 25 named storms predicted.

In April, the second-highest number of tornadoes were record across the country. Last week, at least five people were killed by tornadoes in Iowa.

Harold Brooks, a senior scientist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma, said a persistent pattern of warm, moist air is to blame for the string of tornadoes over the past two months.

  • Associated Press contributed to this report

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