Death toll rises to 21 after storms sweep across several US states

Tornadoes leave path of destruction across several US states as other parts of country brace for more possible storms.

At least 21 people have been killed in a series of powerful storms that swept across the central and southern United States, leaving a trail of destruction and devastation.

The storms caused deaths in the US states of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kentucky, just north of an oppressive, early season heatwave setting records from south Texas to Florida.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency early on Monday after tornadoes ripped through the state.

“It was a tough night for our people,” Beshear said on social media platform X, later adding in a press briefing that “devastating storms” had hit almost the entire state.

The governor said “at least a few” tornadoes touched down in Kentucky over the weekend, including one that travelled on the ground for about 65km (40 miles). Officials said 100 state highways and roads were damaged by the storms.

The extreme weather system, which struck the region beginning late on Saturday, overturned vehicles and ripped up homes, leaving a wake of deadly destruction in its path.

The death toll over the Memorial Day holiday weekend included at least eight fatalities in Arkansas, seven in Texas, four in Kentucky and two in Oklahoma, according to tallies by state emergency authorities.

The deaths in Texas came after a tornado tore through the Valley View area north of Dallas, Cooke County Sheriff Ray Sappington told reporters. It destroyed homes and a petrol station, and overturned vehicles on an interstate highway.

In Oklahoma, at least two people were dead after a tornado hit Mayes County late Saturday, the county head of emergency management, Johnny Janzen, told the Fox News affiliate in Tulsa.

In Kentucky, the latest place left with shattered homes and no power was the tiny community of Charleston.

“It’s a big mess,” said resident Rob Linton. “Trees down everywhere. Houses moved. Power lines are down. No utilities whatsoever – no water, no power.”

Hundreds of thousands of Americans faced power outages on Monday due to the weather, according to the PowerOutage.US tracking website, with Kentucky alone having more than 180,000 outages.

It could take days for all the electricity to be restored, said Beshear, the Kentucky governor.

Destroyed homes after a deadly tornado in the US
Destroyed homes are seen after a deadly tornado rolled through Valley View, Texas [Julio Cortez/AP Photo]

Storms were still likely to produce damaging wind and hail as they pushed eastwards on Monday, as well as possibly produce “isolated tornadoes” in the eastern Mid-Atlantic, the National Weather Service said.

The area on highest alert for severe weather on Monday is a broad swathe of the eastern US, from Alabama to New York.

The severe thunderstorms and 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 US.

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.

That warm moist air is at the northern edge of a heat dome bringing temperatures typically seen at the height of summer to late May.

The latest extreme weather came just days after a powerful tornado ripped through an Iowa town, killing four people, and more twisters touched down in Texas last week.

Source: News Agencies