DALLAS: Eight people died in the greater Dallas area as a storm system brought tornadoes and flooding on Saturday, increasing the death toll from harsh weather in the southern United States this week to 26, according to officials and local media.
Authorities in Garland confirmed that five people died after a tornado struck the city, some 15 miles (24 km) northeast of downtown Dallas. Homes, apartments and vehicles were also damaged, police said, but it was not clear how many people were hurt.
The five deaths were believed to have been related to vehicles having been struck by a tornado near State Highway 190 and Interstate 30.
Two other people were found dead at a gas station in the city of Copeville, another 20 miles (32 km) to the northeast, said Lt Chris Havey, spokesman for the Collin County Sheriff’s Office, and an infant had died in Blue Ridge.
The National Weather Service confirmed tornadoes hit multiple cities in the greater Dallas area on Saturday evening, and there were reports of widespread damage and flooding.
NWS meteorologist Steve Fano said roughly eight tornadoes may have touched down across seven counties, though preliminary reports could not be confirmed.
The Weather Service said at least one tornado struck south of Dallas in Ellis County, where Emergency Management Coordinator Stephanie Parker said: “We have destroyed and damaged homes.”
Weather officials also confirmed tornadoes hitting the towns of Ovilla, Farmersville and Rowlett. Images uploaded to social media showed a massive tornado near Rowlett, as well as devastated houses and vehicles.
The Weather Service said there were reports of debris falling from the sky onto a highway in nearby DeSoto. Fano said that while the tornado threat had dissipated for the region, flash flood watches would extend through the night.
Power was out for some 30,000 customers in the region as of Saturday night, according to energy company Oncor.
MORE BODIES IN MISSISSIPPI
Officials in Benton County, Mississippi, on Saturday found the bodies of a man and woman who were missing since being caught in a tornado on Wednesday, said Greg Flynn, spokesman for Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
The cause of their deaths was not disclosed, but they brought the total dead from tornadoes in Mississippi to 10, in addition to 56 people injured, officials said.
The tornado damaged 403 homes over a seven-county area in the state, Flynn said. In addition, flooding left 50 homes uninhabitable and closed 40 roads in Monroe County, which got 10 to 12 inches (about 25 to 30 cm) of rain, he said.
The tornadoes also killed six people in Tennessee and one each in Arkansas and Alabama, bringing the three-state total to 18.
State authorities told local broadcaster WTVY that they had recovered the body of a 5-year-old boy who drowned when the car he was in was swept into floodwaters on Friday. A 22-year-old man who was in the car remains missing, the station said.
US post-holiday travelers can expect a mix of stormy weather during the remainder of the weekend, with blizzard conditions in New Mexico and western Texas and flooding rain in the southern plains from south Texas through Indiana, forecasters said.
In California, high winds fanned a wildfire that closed parts of the much-traveled U.S. Highway 101 northwest of Los Angeles and forced evacuations, fire officials said.
The wet and snowy conditions come after a Christmas Day of unseasonable warmth on the East Coast, with record-high temperatures set or tied in several cities, including New York.