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Holiday weekend storms kill at least 24 in 7 states as severe weather continues

Storms kill more than 20 across 4 states
Storms kill more than 20 across 4 states 02:56

Powerful storms killed at least 24 people, injured hundreds and left a wide trail of destruction across Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina and Missouri, obliterating homes and destroying a truck stop where dozens sought shelter in a restroom during the latest deadly weather to strike the central U.S.

The storms inflicted their worst damage in a region spanning from north of Dallas to the northwest corner of Arkansas.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency early Monday in a post on social media platform X, citing "multiple reports of wind damage and tornadoes."

Falling trees killed at least two people in Kentucky, authorities said. One death was confirmed in Mercer County early Monday — a person was pronounced dead inside and a second person was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The second such death was reported in Louisville, where a man was killed Sunday, police said. Louisville Mayor Craig Greenburg confirmed on social media it was a storm-related death.

Beshear confirmed two more storm-related deaths in a Monday morning news conference, and said one other individual was "fighting for their life." Five deaths in all were blamed on the severe weather in his state.

"We believe at least a few tornadoes touched down, including the one we know was on the ground for at least 40 miles," he said. One family who lost their home in the 2021 tornados lost their home again last night, he said.

Seven deaths were reported in Valley View in Cooke County, Texas, near the Oklahoma border, where a tornado Saturday night plowed through a rural area near a mobile home park, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said at a news conference Sunday. The dead included two children, ages 2 and 5, and three family members were found dead in one home, according to the county sheriff.

A man looks at a damaged car on May 26, 2024 after a tornado passed through the previous day in Valley View, Texas.  Julio Cortez / AP

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

Authorities on Tuesday confirmed deaths in two additional states — one death in Clay County, North Carolina, and one death in Sikeston, Missouri. In Sikeston, a man living in a tent near Highway 60 was killed after a tree fell on top of him, the city's Department of Public Safety said in a statement. 

As of 11:15 a.m. EDT, some 174,000 homes and businesses in Kentucky, 66,000 in West Virginia, 61,000 in Arkansas, 59,000 in Missouri, 6,000 in Texas and 3,000 in Oklahoma had no electricity, according to Beshear warned Monday morning that some places could be without power for days, because of storm damage to power infrastructure.

In Texas, about 100 people were injured and more than 200 homes and structures destroyed, Abbott said, sitting in front of a ravaged truck stop near Valley View, a small agricultural community. The area was among the hardest-hit, with winds reaching an estimated 135 mph, officials said.

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

APTOPIX Severe Weather Texas
Damage is seen on May 26, 2024 at a truck stop the morning after a tornado rolled through Valley View, Texas.  Julio Cortez / AP

Abbot signed an amended severe weather disaster declaration Sunday to include Denton, Montague, Cooke and Collin on a list of counties already under a disaster declaration sparked by storms and flooding in late April.

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."

Multiple people were transported to hospitals by ambulance and helicopter in Denton County, also north of Dallas.

In Pilot Point, in the Dallas area, a woman used her key fob to signal SOS after a twister roared through, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

The newspaper said the tornado flipped Amber Bryan's RV, trapping her inside. side. "Thank God, just got some bruises, nothing broken," the paper quotes her as saying. "Everything happened so fast. I just said, 'Lord wrap your arms around me and my pets and get us through this.'"

Severe Weather Texas
A vehicle rests on a tree after a deadly tornado rolled through the previous night, on May 26, 2024, in Valley View, Texas.  Julio Cortez / AP

Others told CBS Texas how they survived when a funnel roared through an RV park at a marina.

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Sunday evening in a news conference that eight people had died statewide, although officials on Tuesday adjusted the tally down to seven, saying one death had been incorrectly attributed to the storms. 

An emergency official had said two deaths were attributed to the circumstances related to the storm but not directly caused by weather, including a person who suffered a heart attack and another who was deprived of oxygen due to a loss of electricity.

The deaths included a 26-year-old woman whose body was found outside a destroyed home in Olvey, a small community in Boone County, according to Daniel Bolen of the county's emergency management office. One person died in Benton County, and two more bodies were found in Marion County, officials said.

It was not immediately clear which death had been removed from the tally of storm-related fatalities.   

In Oklahoma, two people died in Mayes County, east of Tulsa, officials said. And one storm-related death occurred in Nelson County, Virginia, authorities confirmed.

Climate change and history-making weather

The destruction continued a grim month of deadly severe weather in the nation's midsection.

Tornadoes in Iowa last week left at least five people dead and dozens injured.

The deadly twisters have spawned during a historically bad season for tornadoes, at a time when climate change contributes to the severity of storms around the world. April had the second-highest number of tornadoes on record in the country.

Meteorologists and authorities issued urgent warnings to seek cover as the storms marched across the region late Saturday and into Sunday. "If you are in the path of this storm take cover now!" the National Weather Service office in Norman, Oklahoma, posted on X.

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

Residents awoke Sunday to overturned cars and collapsed garages. Some residents could be seen pacing and assessing the damage. Nearby, neighbors sat on the foundation of a wrecked home.

In Valley View, near the truck stop, the storms ripped the roofs off homes and blew out windows. Clothing, insulation, bits of plastic and other pieces of debris were wrapped around miles of barbed wire fence line surrounding grazing land in the rural area.

Kevin Dorantes, 20, was in nearby Carrollton when he learned the tornado was bearing down on the Valley View neighborhood where he lived with his father and brother. He called the two of them and told them to take cover in the windowless bathroom, where they rode out the storm and survived unharmed.

As Dorantes wandered through the neighborhood of downed power lines and devastated houses, he came upon a family whose home was reduced to a pile of splintered rubble. A father and son were trapped under debris and friends and neighbors raced to get them out, Dorantes said.

"They were conscious but severely injured," Dorantes said.

Inaccessible roads and downed power lines in Oklahoma also led officials in the town of Claremore, near Tulsa, to announce on social media that the city was "shut down" due to the damage.

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

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.

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