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Severe storms tear through Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, killing at least 18

At least 15 killed as tornadoes hit South
At least 15 killed as tornadoes hit South 02:34

Powerful storms killed at least 18 people and left a wide trail of destruction Sunday across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas after 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.

Seven deaths were reported in Cooke County, Texas, near the Oklahoma border, where a tornado Saturday night plowed through a rural area near a mobile home park, officials said. Storms also killed two people and destroyed houses in Oklahoma, where the injured included guests at an outdoor wedding. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Sunday at a news conference that about 100 people were injured by the Saturday tornado, but he noted the exact toll was "hard to tell with certainty." More than 200 homes and 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.

Tens of thousands of residents were without power across the region.

A tornado unfurled out of the storms late on Saturday, overturning vehicles and shutting 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. 

In nearby Cooke County, Sheriff Ray Sappington told CBS News that officials had confirmed five deaths from the extreme weather by Sunday morning. Officials later raised the death toll to seven in Cooke County. The dead included two children, ages 2 and 5, the sheriff told The Associated Press. According to Abbott, those children were part of the same family.

"When they woke up yesterday, they had no way of knowing the family would be literally crushed by this horrific storm," Abbott said of the family.

The sheriff previously told the AP that those five included three family members who were found in one home near Valley View, a rural community near the Oklahoma border. Valley View is about an hour north of Dallas by car.

Parts of Cooke County were completely devastated in the wake of the storms, Sappington told CBS News. He said the death toll would likely rise, as search and rescue operations were underway for some people who remained missing Sunday morning. 

"It's just a trail of debris left. The devastation is pretty severe," said Sappington in a statement to the AP. Valley View Police Chief Justin Stamps told CBS News on Sunday the death toll in that community could be as high as six.

"I'm not positive on the number but the last estimate was possibly 5-6," Stamps said. "Daylight will reveal the totality of what we're dealing with."

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a social media post that state emergency response units were activated to respond to the tornado.

"Please pray for these families. Their loss is unfathomable," he said. "Jan and I are praying for the first responders, families in all impacted areas, and victims who tragically lost their lives."

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

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

Details about the two deaths in Mayes County, Oklahoma, were not immediately available, said Mike Dunham, the county's deputy director of emergency management

Damage from a tornado that hit near Denton County, Texas, overnight Saturday into Sunday. Andrew Wurst

Scattered severe storms hit Oklahoma and forecasters issued a tornado warning for some parts of the state Saturday night, as some heat records were broken during the day in South Texas and people were warned of triple-digit temperatures over the long holiday weekend.

The National Weather Service's office in Norman said via X that the warning was for northern Noble and far southern Kay counties, an area located to the north of Oklahoma City.

"If you are in the path of this storm take cover now!" it said.

Earlier the office compared conditions Saturday to "a gasoline-soaked brush pile." Forecasters said any storms that form could explode with large hail, dangerous winds and tornadoes.

"There's a small chance most of the matches are duds and we only see a few storms today. Still, that's not a match I would want to play with. It only takes one storm to be impactful," the weather service in Norman, Oklahoma, wrote on Facebook.

In North Texas, Clay County Judge Mike Campbell said in a social media post Saturday night that two homes lost their roofs and a store was destroyed from a possible tornado, but said there were no immediate reports of injuries.

A spokesperson for Kansas' Sedgwick County, which includes Wichita, told CBS News in an email that the area was contending with downed trees and power lines from a storm, with about 8,000 customers without power.

In Oklahoma, the Woodward County Office of Emergency Management confirmed that a tornado touched down southwest of the small town of Mutual. There was reports of minor damage to a home and a trailer, along with downed power lines, but no reports of injuries. 

Excessive heat, especially for May, was the danger in South Texas, where the heat index was forecast to approach 120 degrees Fahrenheit in some spots during the weekend. Actual temperatures will be lower, although still in triple-digit territory, but the humidity will make it feel that much hotter.

Parts of Texas, including Houston, have already grappled with severe storms and power outages that left residents vulnerable to high temperatures earlier in May. The region is on the north end of a heat dome that stretches from Mexico to South America, National Weather Service meteorologist Zack Taylor said.

Sunday looks like the hottest day with record-setting highs for late May forecast for Austin, Brownsville, Dallas and San Antonio, Taylor said.

The temperature was approaching 90 degrees and the heat index was 104 in Brownsville on the U.S./Mexico border by midmorning Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

Wild weather across the country impacts Memorial Day weekend travel 03:03

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%, and wind gusts of up to 60 mph were recorded.

"We've got very dry air, warm temperatures and strong winds creating a high fire danger over a wide area ... that can lead to rapidly spreading or uncontrollable fires," Taylor said.

Meanwhile, several inches of snow fell Friday into early Saturday in Rolla, North Dakota, about 10 miles from the Canadian border.

The millions of people traveling for Memorial Day weekend have been warned that the wild weather could play havoc with travel plans. 

April and May have been a busy month for tornadoes, especially in the Midwest. Climate change is heightening the severity of storms around the world. 

April had the country's second-highest number of tornadoes on record, according to the National Weather Service. And in 2024, the U.S. is already 25% ahead of the average number of twisters, according to the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

Iowa has been the hardest hit so far this week. A deadly twister devastated Greenfield, a city about 55 miles south of the capital Des Moines, killing at least five people and injuring dozens more. Other storms brought flooding and wind damage elsewhere in the state.

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.

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

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

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