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At least 18 people are dead after tornado-spawning storms strike the central US on Memorial Day weekend

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At least 18 people are dead after tornado-spawning storms strike the central US on Memorial Day weekend




CNN
 — 

At least 18 people, including four children, are dead in four states after suspected tornadoes struck the central United States overnight and as millions face continued severe weather threats through the remainder of the Memorial Day weekend.

Just under 109 million people across broad swaths of the US were under threat of large hail, damaging winds and a fierce twisters Sunday, mainly throughout the mid-Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee River valleys. As the storms move east, the Storm Prediction Center warned of “violent tornadoes, extreme hail and corridors of widespread wind damage.”

President Joe Biden has been briefed on the storms.

As severe weather continued to unfold across parts of the US, a heightened tornado watch designated as a rare “particularly dangerous situation” calling for “several tornadoes and few intense likely” went into effect on Sunday, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

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The watch covers parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee – including in St. Louis and Jefferson City, Missouri; Paducah, Kentucky; and Carbondale, Illinois – and impacts 4.7 million people.

This is a special kind of tornado watch issued only when there’s unusually high confidence in the potential of multiple at least EF2-strength and long-lived tornadoes in the area, according to the National Weather Service.

The supercell thunderstorms firing up in the watch area will also be capable of large hail bigger than the size of baseballs and damaging wind gusts to 75 mph.

“Intense supercell thunderstorms will continue to develop across the watch area through this evening. Several tornadoes are likely, some of which are expected to be intense. Very large hail is also likely, along with the risk for potentially significant damaging wind gusts,” says the Storm Prediction Center.

Charlie Kaijo/The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/AP

Betty Wood stands next to a downed 50-foot-tree on her property on Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Rogers, Arkansas.

A tornado watch was issued Sunday evening for more than 3 million people living in parts of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky until 1 a.m. CT.

The Storm Prediction Center warned of several possible tornadoes with hail larger than baseballs and widespread wind gusts up to 85 mph likely.

At least seven people in Cooke County, Texas, were killed when severe storms hit the area Saturday night, Sheriff Ray Sappington told CNN. Among the dead were four juveniles, including a 2-year-old and 5-year-old.

The severe weather that swept through Arkansas killed at least eight people, with deaths occurring in Marion, Boone, Baxter and Benton counties, officials say.

Eleven northern Arkansas counties were affected by the storms, Arkansas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Cindy Murphy told CNN.

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared a state of emergency Sunday afternoon to support the severe weather and tornado-ravaged parts of the state. 

“We remain in close contact with local officials and will continue to do everything possible to help each Arkansan in need,” the governor said in a message on X.

One person died in Kentucky, according to a social media post by Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg.

In northeast Oklahoma, two people were killed and at least 23 were injured as a result of severe storms overnight, local officials told CNN.

Electrical substations were downed and the city of Claremore was left with no operating gas systems, Claremore City Manager John Feary said. Among the injured, 19 were transported to hospitals, three with potentially critical or life-threatening injuries, Feary said.

Survey teams from the National Weather Service found severe damage Sunday in Claremore, giving the tornado a preliminary rating of EF3.

EF3 tornadoes pack winds of 136 to 165 mph. The damage was found north of Highway 20, east of Claremore.

Inside a Shell gas station in northeast Texas, 60 to 80 people were trapped until the storm blew over, Sappington said. Multiple injuries were reported at the station, but none were life-threatening, he added.

City of Denton Fire Department

City of Denton (Texas) Fire Department shares photo of damaged building following severe weather reported in area.

Many vehicles were damaged and destroyed, leaving about 40 people stranded. They were transported by bus to another gas station in Gainesville, where they were picked up by family members.

In north Denton County, a possible tornado injured an unknown number of people, damaged several homes, overturned 18-wheelers, downed trees and knocked out power lines on Saturday night, authorities said early Sunday.

“Multiple victims” were reported in Ray Roberts after severe weather struck the area overnight, city of Denton fire officials said.

Damage to several homes was also reported in the neighboring city of Celina, where officials said the city was affected by “apparent tornadic activity” on Saturday.

The National Weather Service office in Fort Worth issued several tornado warnings for multiple North Texas cities late Saturday night, telling residents to seek shelter immediately as a tornado was seen heading east between Valley View and Sanger around 10:40 p.m.

Lake Ray Roberts Marina in the city of Sanger in Denton County sustained damage to boats, boat houses and the fuel dock by the severe weather Saturday night. Despite reports of people rescued after being trapped in overturned RVs, there are no reports of serious injuries.

“There is so much damage, we don’t even know where to start,” the marina said in a Facebook post Sunday morning.

“We know the boat houses are heavily damaged, all have lost walkways, and most boats are damaged,” the post said. “We lost our fuel dock and offices along with our dock cat, Ginger.”

A survey team with the National Weather Service in Dallas found that a tornado of at least a preliminary rating of EF2 strength struck Valley View in northern Texas with estimated maximum winds of 135 mph.

The team also said damage found in south Montague County was consistent with an EF2 tornado and estimated maximum winds of 125 mph. This tornado was just south of Forestburg.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday signed a disaster declaration for four additional counties – Denton, Collin, Cooke and Montague – bringing the total to 106 counties.

“I saw the harrowing video inside the Valley View gas station as the tornado passed through with the people stockpiled in their clinging to safety,” Abbott said at a news conference, adding that it’s a “miracle” everyone made it out alive.

At least 100 people have been injured in Texas, said Abbott, who referred to the deaths as a “heart-wrenching loss of life.”

Julio Cortez/AP

Vehicles in a body shop are seen amid debris the morning after a tornado rolled through in Valley View, Texas.

In Bentonville, Arkansas, were working to respond to power outages and emergency medical calls on Sunday, according to Mayor Stephanie Orman.

“We have crews mobilized throughout the city. We have power lines, down – about 10,000 probably out with power. We’ve got trees across roads, we’re really encouraging individuals to stay off the roads as we tried to clean up those road systems. We also have signals down,” Orman said. “We have had over 20 EMS calls and so those are currently being worked.”

Across state lines, damage was also reported throughout Rogers County, Oklahoma, after a possible tornado swept the area, downing power lines and trees and damaging homes.

More than 500,000 customers across nine states were without power by Sunday evening, including more than 170,000 outages in Kentucky alone, according to the tracking website poweroutage.us.

A new tornado watch impacting 1.5 million people was issued Sunday for parts of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma until 9 p.m. CT that includes Springfield, Branson, and Joplin in Missouri, as well as Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Supercell thunderstorms could produce a couple tornadoes, scattered large hail up to the size of tennis balls and damaging wind gusts to 70 mph, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

There is a Level 3 of 5 risk of severe thunderstorms over parts of the Mississippi and Ohio valleys into Monday morning, and EF2 to EF5 tornadoes and wind gusts of 74 mph are possible, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

Storms will move toward the East Coast on Monday, bringing disruptive high winds and large hail from DC through the Southeast.

The travel hubs of Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Nashville could have to contend with damaging storms, leading to delayed or canceled flights.

The potential for heavy rain over parts of the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, middle Mississippi Valley, and Central Appalachians prompted the slight risk, Level 2 of 4, of excessive rainfall in those regions through Monday morning.

Louisville, Kentucky; Cincinnati; St. Louis; Nashville and Indianapolis are among the cities included in the Level 3 threat.


View this interactive content on CNN.com

The unofficial start of summer is also ushering in sweltering heat, reaching potentially record high temperatures for parts of the US on Monday.

Houston; New Orleans; Miami; Mobile, Alabama, Tampa, Florida; and Charleston, South Carolina, are among locations where warm weather will feel more like July than late May through the holiday weekend.

A subtropical upper-level high over Mexico will help spawn excessive heat warnings and heat advisories over southern Texas through Monday, according to the Storm Prediction Center. “The ridging will create a dangerous early-season heat wave over south Texas and southern Florida,” according to the center.

Daily high temperatures and heat index reading exceeding 115 are possible in some areas, the Storm Prediction Center noted.

Those spending time outdoors or who are dealing with a loss of power should drink enough water, dress in lightweight clothing and locate cooling centers if necessary.

CNN meteorologist Elliana Hebert and CNN’s Ed Lavandera, Jillian Sykes, Chris Boyette and Cindy Von Quednow contributed to this report.



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