US storm deaths reach 22 as new tornadoes hit Texas

Powerful Southeastern Tornadoes Kill 14
Powerful Southeastern Tornadoes Kill 14

DALLAS (Reuters) - Four people died in a storm-related incident in Texas near where a tornado touched down on Saturday, bringing the death toll from tornadoes and flooding this week in the southern United States to 22, according to officials and local media.

The four victims were killed in what was believed to be a traffic accident in the Texas city of Garland, about 15 miles (24 km) northeast of downtown Dallas, police spokesman Mike Hatfield told the Dallas Morning News.

The National Weather Service confirmed tornadoes hit multiple cities around Dallas on Saturday evening. Weather officials said there were reports of debris falling from the sky onto a highway in nearby DeSoto.

The Weather Service said a tornado had touched down to the south of Dallas in Ellis County, where Emergency Management Coordinator Stephanie Parker said: "We have destroyed and damaged homes."

See images from the tornado destruction in Alabama:

Weather officials also confirmed tornadoes striking the Texas towns Ovilla, Farmersville and Rowlett - which neighbors Garland. Images uploaded to social media showed a massive tornado near Rowlett and at least one destroyed structure.

Flash flood and tornado warnings extended into Saturday night for the region, according to the Weather Service.

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.

U.S. 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. 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.

"It looks like it's going to be pretty bad across the southwest into the southern plains," said Evan Duffey, meteorologist for AccuWeather.

He added that given the blizzard conditions expected for Saturday, anyone hoping to travel in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas "should try to get going as soon as you can" to beat the storm.

(Reporting by Lisa Maria Garza in Dallas, Mary Wisniewski in Chicago and Kevin Murphy in Kansas City; Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Bill Rigby and Dan Grebler)

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