Tornadoes hit Texas, Oklahoma; heat hits the South over Memorial Day weekend

May 26, 2024
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Five people died in Texas, two in Oklahoma, and another in Arkansas overnight after violent storms and tornadoes swept through the region, overturning trucks, smashing homes and trapping dozens in a collapsed gas station.

Cooke County Sheriff Ray Sappington told NBC News early Sunday that five people died in the community some 50 miles north of Dallas, Texas. Between 60 and 80 people were believed to be trapped in a Shell station that had collapsed, he added.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the weather service said radar had confirmed multiple tornadoes and hail two inches in diameter. Two people were killed in nearby Mayes County and at least six others taken for treatment, said Michael Dunham, Deputy Director of Emergency Management for Mayes County.

Officials for Benton County, Arkansas, said one person had been killed and “multiple” people injured in the area due to the storms. Benton County Sheriff Sean Halloway said emergency response teams were on search and rescue duty throughout the night.

The dangerous storms and tornadoes sweeping through the nation’s midsection also overturned 18-wheelers, smashed mobile homes and toppled power lines.

On Saturday night, federal forecasters had issued tornado watches and warnings for parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas.

Devastation left behind after a tornado
Devastation left behind in Greenfield, Iowa, on May 22 after a tornado tore through town.Scott Olson / Getty Images

In Denton, another community north of Dallas, the fire department posted a photo of a heavily damaged building on X, saying it was sending first responders to help “multiple victims,” including some who were trapped, after a tornado tore through town and tipped 18-wheelers onto their sides.

People who suffered injuries were transported to area hospitals by ground and air ambulances, Denton County Community Relations Director Dawn Cobb said in a statement.

The National Weather Service office for Fort Worth, Texas, urged residents in the path of unstable thunderstorm cells north of Dallas-Fort Worth to “SEEK SHELTER NOW!!!” They later posted on X that the tornado threat had diminished in the area, but warnings remained in many other parts of the state.

Experts say the Plains, and parts of the South and Midwest have been subjected to a long and deadly tornado season during an epic and lasting clash between cold and warm influences.

Chief meteorologist Bill Berardelli of NBC affiliate WFLA in Tampa, Florida, explained the recipe for whipped-up weather in a post on social media platform X:

“Big heat ridge parked over Mexico/Gulf, and cold pool over the Pacific NW [is] a perfect setup as disturbances ride a semi-stalled frontal boundary focusing storms over #Tornado Alley,” he said.

The storms will continue to push east on Sunday, moving into the Midwest and Ohio Valley. They are expected to affect 42 million people in cities such as Chicago, Indianapolis, Nashville, St. Louis and Cincinnati.

Damaging wind gusts are most expected across the Midwest, but tornadoes and large hail are also possible.

The storms will finish off on the East Coast on Monday, with a slight risk of severe weather issued to the mid-Atlantic. In this region, including Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; and Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina, 27 million are at risk of experiencing strong to severe thunderstorms.

The primary hazard to watch out for is severe wind, but a storm or two could be capable of producing large hail or a tornado.

A fallen transmission line tower.
A fallen transmission tower in Houston on May 17 in the aftermath of a severe storm.Brett Coomer/ / Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

With this active storm pattern comes the risk of flash flooding, especially across the mid-Mississippi Valley. In total, 3 million are under flood alerts including in cities such as Memphis, Tennessee; and Tupelo, Mississippi.

Rainfall totals will generally range from 1-2.5 inches through the weekend, with localized higher amounts of 3-plus inches possible where training storms develop.

Southern heat

The South will also be facing extreme heat over Memorial Day weekend.

Summerlike temperatures will affect the southern Plains and the Gulf Coast as highs soar to 10-20 degrees above average.

Heat alerts are in effect for 7 million across southern Texas on Saturday, including in Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Brownsville, as temperatures will climb as high as 100-115 degrees.

A man carries water on his shoulder.
Power outages affected the Houston area on May 18 after severe thunderstorms.Jason Fochtman / Houston Chronicle via AP

Nearly two dozen record highs will be threatened Saturday afternoon as temperatures reach into the 90s-100s in Brownsville and Houston, Texas; Key West, Florida; and New Orleans.

Both Brownsville and Harlingen, Texas, set new daily high records Saturday with Brownsville hitting 99 degrees and Harlingen at 100 degrees, according to the NWS, both 2 degrees higher than their previous records.

On Sunday, more heat will cover the South, with more than 20 record highs threatened in Corpus Christi; Miami and Orlando, Florida; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.

Extreme fire conditions

Four million are under alerts for critical fire weather conditions across the high and southern Plains from Colorado to Texas, including Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico; and El Paso, Texas.

Newly formed fires are at risk of rapidly spreading due to the dangerous combination of dry vegetation, 30-45 mph winds and low relative humidity.





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