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US storms kill at least 21 across 4 states on Memorial Day weekend

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By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) -Tornado-spawning thunderstorms that swept the U.S. Southern Plains and Ozarks have killed at least 21 people as of Monday morning across four states and wrecked hundreds of buildings, with forecasters warning of more severe weather.

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

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency early on Monday while the National Weather Service said a severe thunderstorm watch was issued for parts of Georgia and South Carolina until at least Monday afternoon.

“It was a tough night for our people,” the Kentucky governor said on social media platform X on Monday. He later said in a press briefing that “devastating storms” had hit almost the entire state. Officials said 100 state highways and roads were damaged by the storms.

At least seven people perished – including two children aged 2 and 5 from a single family – and nearly 100 were injured on Saturday night when a powerful tornado struck communities in north Texas near the Oklahoma border, Governor Greg Abbott said at a Sunday news conference.

Late on Sunday, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the state had at least eight deaths after the storms. A resident in Arkansas suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease died due to lack of oxygen when the power went out.

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 over 180,000 outages.

In some areas, restoring power could take days, Beshear, the Kentucky governor said in a news briefing on Monday.

The National Weather Service warned of additional storms moving through the Ohio and Tennessee valleys, bringing damaging winds, large hail and more tornadoes, as well as heavy downpours capable of triggering flash floods.

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.

Meanwhile, the U.S. was preparing for what government forecasters have called a potentially “extraordinary” 2024 Atlantic hurricane season beginning June 1.

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