Storms and tornadoes leave at least 21 people dead during Memorial Day weekend

Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kentucky were the most affected states.

Authorities reported that at least 21 people have died after tornadoes and extreme storms hit the states of Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kentucky late Saturday and early Sunday, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

Rescue and debris removal efforts continued and hundreds of thousands of people were left without power after the storms hit part of the region known as the Great Plains. The United States National Weather Service (NWS) counted 25 tornadoes on Saturday.

In Texas, Cooke County Sheriff Ray Sappington said at a news conference on Sunday - reported by AFP - that seven people died in an area north of Dallas, which was devastated by a tornado. This information was confirmed hours later by the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott.

"Unfortunately seven people lost their lives," the state authority said during a press conference in the city of Valley View, in Cooke County, one of the hardest hit by the storms. "We have no reports of missing people but we are doing a final round of searching to be sure," he added.

Following these incidents, the governor signed a disaster declaration for four counties, allowing budgets and personnel to be streamlined to help those affected and draw on federal funds.

Currently, more than 40% of Texas is under a disaster declaration, after storms and severe weather hit part of the state in recent weeks.

Strong winds

The Cooke County tornado destroyed homes and a gas station where several drivers had sought shelter, leaving injuries but no fatalities. According to authorities, in Valley View, this tornado reached winds of up to 217 km/h.

Several vehicles were overturned on an interstate highway, while television images showed properties destroyed by the storms. Sappington called the damage "quite extensive."

In Arkansas, five people died as a result of the storms, according to local authorities in Benton, Baxter, Boone and Marion counties.

In Oklahoma, at least two people died after a tornado hit Mayes County on Saturday night, local emergency management chief Johnny Janzen told the Fox News affiliate in Tulsa.

Meanwhile, in the state of Kentucky, one person died due to the storms, as reported by the mayor of the city of Louisville, Craig Greenberg, on his X account.

Due to bad weather in Indiana, the start of the Indianapolis 500 was delayed four hours on Sunday, and about 125,000 people were urged to leave the stands and seek shelter. Finally, the automobile race, one of the most emblematic in the United States, was able to commence.

As the storm system moved across the country, more than 450,000 customers remained without power in Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky, according to the latest update on the website.