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At least 15 are dead after tornadoes rip through parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas

A man looks at a damaged car in Valley View, Texas, on Sunday, May 26 the day after a tornado hit.
Julio Cortez
A man looks at a damaged car in Valley View, Texas, on Sunday, May 26 the day after a tornado hit.

Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms ripped through parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas late Saturday evening and Sunday morning, leaving at least 15 people dead and causing widespread damage.

Around midday Sunday, some rescue crews in those states were still searching for missing people and digging out from the rubble, while residents in other states such as Kentucky and Tennessee were facing severe weather from the eastward-moving storms.

More than 400,000 residents throughout the region had lost power as of Sunday afternoon, according to the website poweroutage.us.

In north central Texas, Cooke County Sheriff Ray Sappington told the Associated Press that at least seven people were killed there, including two children ages 5 and 2.

In Arkansas, at least five people were reportedly killed in the storm. Benton County Judge Barry Moehring said one person had died there and multiple others were injured. “It’s been a difficult night for Benton County,” Moehring said.

Two people were killed in Marion County, one person died in Baxter County, and one person was killed in Boone County, local officials said.

“Bryan and I are praying for the communities impacted by last night’s storm and the families of the Arkansans we lost,” said Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said two fatalities had been confirmed in the town of Pryor in Mayes County.

In Louisville, Ky., Mayor Craig Greenberg confirmed one death.

Severe thunderstorms spawned destructive tornadoes in several states

The National Weather Service issued tornado warnings and severe thunderstorm warnings in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas throughout the Memorial Day weekend. The NWS office in Fort Worth said one of the storms was expected to contain “golf ball sized hail!”

Multiple tweets from the meteorological agency Saturday night urged residents to seek shelter immediately to protect themselves from the imminent threat of tornadoes.

By Sunday morning, images of the destruction were beginning to emerge, and public officials were sharing assessments of the casualties and damage.

Denton County, Texas, said in a Facebook post that a tornado there overturned vehicles, damaged homes, felled trees and downed power lines, and that a "number of individuals with injuries” were taken to local hospitals.

Photos from Benton County, Ark., showed heaps of rubble strewn across a road and battered buildings, including a Dollar Tree.

The Cooke County Office of Emergency Management said the storm “caused significant damage to numerous homes and businesses, including the Gateway AP Travel Center, which received major damage.” The office added that there were “numerous injuries of varying degrees.”

Other states are preparing for more bad weather

On Sunday afternoon, a major swath of the U.S was facing an “enhanced risk” of severe weather, including large parts of the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys, according to the National Weather Service.

Severe thunderstorm watches were in effect Sunday for parts of Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia — with tornadoes and hail also possible.

“Additionally, heavy rain may lead to scattered instances of flash flooding with this initial burst of thunderstorms,” the weather service added. “By the afternoon hours another round of showers and thunderstorms are expected to develop along a cold front and impact similar regions, with the severe threat shifting further east across the Ohio Valley overnight.”

By Monday, meteorologists said the weather system will produce severe thunderstorms across the Mid-Atlantic, with the highest chance for intense rainfall in parts of Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.