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Over 10 dead in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas after severe weather roars across region

Forecasters had issued tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings for parts of both states.
Severe Weather Texas May 26, 2024
Posted at 7:30 AM, May 26, 2024

Powerful storms killed at least 14 people and left a wide trail of destruction Sunday across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas after obliterating homes and destroying a truck stop where drivers took shelter 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 caused damage in Oklahoma, where guests at an outdoor wedding were injured. Tens of thousands of residents were without power across the region.

“It’s just a trail of debris left. The devastation is pretty severe,” Cooke County Sheriff Ray Sappington told The Associated Press.

The dead included two children, ages 2 and 5, the sheriff said.

Three family members in Texas were found dead in one home near the small community of Valley View, Sappington said.

Hugo Parra, who lives in Farmers Branch, north of Dallas, said he rode out the storm with about 40 to 50 people in the bathroom of a gas station.

“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."

"It's just a trail of debris left. The devastation is pretty severe," Cooke County Sheriff Ray Sappington told The Associated Press.

Officials said multiple people were transported to hospitals by ambulance and helicopter in the Texas county of Denton, but they did not immediately know the full extent of the injuries. Sappington said the dead in Texas included three family members who were found in one home near the small community of Valley View.

At least two 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 Office of Emergency Management.

Another person died in Benton County, Arkansas. Melody Kwok, a county communications director, said multiple other people were injured and that emergency workers were still responding to calls.

"We are still on search and rescue right now," she said. "This is a very active situation."

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

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

Tornadoes in Iowa this 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.

A person stands near debris cause by tornado damage in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.

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In Texas, a tornado crossed into Denton County, north of Dallas, overturning tractor-trailers and halting traffic on Interstate 35, county spokesperson Dawn Cobb said. A shelter was opened in the rural town of Sanger.

Sappington said at least 60 to 80 people were inside a highway truck stop, some of them seeking shelter, when the storm barreled through, but there were no serious injuries.

Daybreak began to reveal the full scope of the devastation. Aerial footage showed dozens of damaged homes, including many without roofs and others reduced to rubble.

Residents woke up to overturned cars and collapsed garages. Some residents could be seen pacing around and sorting through scraps of wood, assessing the damage. Nearby, neighbors sat on the foundation of a wrecked home.

At the height of the storms, more than 24,000 homes and businesses lost power in Oklahoma, according to the state Office of Emergency Management. The agency also reported extensive damage from baseball-sized hail and multiple injuries at an outdoor wedding that was being held in rural Woods County.

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

In Texas, the Denton Fire Department posted on social media that emergency crews near Dallas were responding to a marina "for multiple victims, some reported trapped." 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.

April and May have been a busy month for tornadoes, especially in the Midwest. Iowa was hit hard last week when a deadly twister devastated Greenfield. 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 Memorial Day weekend, bringing rain that could delay the Indianapolis 500 auto race Sunday in Indiana and more severe storms in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Kentucky.

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

Damage is seen after a tornado moved through Greenfield, Iowa, on May 21, 2024.

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