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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Storms snarl Memorial Day travel after at least 22 killed



A photo provided by the City of Denton Fire Department shows a building destroyed by a storm near Valley View, Texas, north of Dallas, on Saturday, May 25, 2024. Powerful storms and tornadoes over the weekend killed at least 22 people from Texas to Virginia and left hundreds of thousands without power. (City of Denton Fire Department via The New York Times)

By Katie Benner, Mike Ives and Johnny Díaz


Severe weather stretching from the Midwest to the East Coast disrupted pool parties and travel plans for millions of people Monday, the end of Memorial Day weekend and one of the nation’s busiest travel days.


Flights from Atlanta to Boston experienced ground delays and stops as severe weather, including heavy rain and potentially damaging winds and hail, moved into much of the Eastern United States on Monday afternoon. Parts of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania were under severe storm watches.


The disruptions followed a weekend when storms and tornadoes killed at least 22 people from Texas to Virginia and left hundreds of thousands without power.


Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration said they had worked with the airlines to plan for the expected weather. By midday Monday, La Guardia Airport in New York City had reported average ground delays of 100 minutes, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the busiest in the world, reported departure delays because of severe thunderstorms.


Ground stops and major delays were also expected at airports in Chicago, Virginia, Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia and Cleveland because of the storms, according to the FAA.


In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency Monday morning after four people were killed over the weekend. More than 150,000 customers in the state were without power at midday after damaging winds.


Elsewhere, a tornado left at least seven people dead in North Texas, including two children ages 2 and 5. Eight people were killed in Arkansas, and two died in Oklahoma as severe storms swept through the region, flattening hundreds of buildings and blowing away homes. And severe thunderstorms in Virginia resulted in at least one fatality, officials said.


Thousands of others in the South and Midwest were without power Monday, according to tracking site poweroutage.us.


Later Monday, severe thunderstorms were expected from Texas to New York, the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center said. Flash flooding was possible from Maryland to the Catskill Mountains in New York, the weather service said, and tornadoes were possible in the mid-Atlantic region.


The system was the latest to pummel the region over the past few days. Five people were killed and part of a city was obliterated in Iowa last week after a powerful tornado hit.


President Joe Biden issued a statement of condolence to those affected by the storms, and he thanked emergency responders for their work.


“Jill and I are praying for those who tragically lost their lives as a result of devastating tornadoes that tore through Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, leveling entire communities and leaving a path of destruction in their wake,” Biden said.


Biden said that the federal government was “ready to provide support as needed.” He noted that the Memorial Day holiday storms came just weeks after counties in the Midwest and South were recovering from severe weather.


On Sunday, severe thunderstorms in Howell County, Missouri, produced hail the size of baseballs and tornadoes that downed trees and damaged homes near the town of Mountain View, said Kelsey Angle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Springfield.


In Kentucky, Beshear deployed the National Guard to help state forestry workers clear downed trees and dangerous debris. He activated the state’s price-gouging statute to prevent price increases on necessary supplies and said he believed that the state would qualify for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


Emergency workers have reported high water, fallen trees and other dangerous conditions in about a third of Kentucky’s 120 counties, mostly in the western part of the state, state Transportation Secretary Jim Gray said at a news conference. The storms also impacted nearly 100 state highways.


In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a severe weather disaster declaration that covered 106 counties. Officials estimate that nearly 100 people were injured over the weekend, more than 200 homes were destroyed and more than 220 buildings were damaged.

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