At least 22 dead in Memorial Day weekend storms that devastated several US states

A series of powerful storms in the central and southern U.S. over the Memorial Day holiday weekend has killed at least 22 people as they left a wide trail of destroyed homes, businesses and power outages

A series of powerful storms swept over the central and southern U.S. over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, killing at least 22 people and leaving a wide trail of destroyed homes, businesses and power outages.

The destructive storms caused deaths in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kentucky and were just north of an oppressive, early season heat wave setting records from south Texas to Florida.

Forecasters said the severe weather could shift to the East Coast later Monday and warned millions of people outdoors for the holiday to watch the skies. A tornado watch was issued from North Carolina to Maryland.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, who earlier declared a state of emergency, said at a Monday press conference that five people had died in his state. The fifth death was a 54-year-old man who had a heart attack while cutting fallen trees in Caldwell County in western Kentucky, the governor’s office said.

The death toll of 22 also included seven deaths in Cooke County, Texas, from a Saturday tornado that tore through a mobile home park, officials said, and eight deaths across Arkansas.

Two people died in Mayes County, Oklahoma, which is east of Tulsa, authorities said. The injured included guests at an outdoor wedding.

The latest community left with shattered homes and no power was the tiny Kentucky town of Charleston, which took a direct hit Sunday night from a tornado that the governor said appeared to be on the ground for 40 miles (64 kilometers).

“It’s a big mess,” said Rob Linton, who lives in Charleston and is the fire chief of nearby Dawson Springs, hit by a tornado in 2021. “Trees down everywhere. Houses moved. Power lines are down. No utilities whatsoever – no water, no power.”

Further east, some rural areas of Hopkins County hit by the 2021 tornado around the community of Barnsley were damaged again Sunday night, said county Emergency Management Director Nick Bailey.

“There were a lot of people that were just getting their lives put back together and then this,” Bailey said. “Almost the same spot, the same houses and everything."

Beshear has traveled to the area where his father grew up several times for ceremonies where people who lost everything were given the keys to their new homes.

The visits came after a series of tornadoes on a terrifying night in December 2021 killed 81 people in Kentucky.

“It could have been much worse,” Beshear said of the Memorial Day weekend storms. “The people of Kentucky are very weather aware with everything we’ve been through.”

More than 400,000 customers across the eastern U.S. were without power Monday afternoon, including about 125,000 in Kentucky. Twelve states reported at least 10,000 outages earlier in the day, according to PowerOutage.us.

The area on highest alert for severe weather Monday is a broad swath of the eastern U.S., from Alabama to New York.

President Joe Biden sent condolences to the families of people who died. He said the Federal Emergency Management Agency is on the ground conducting damage assessments and he has contacted governors to see what federal support they might need..

It's been a grim month of tornadoes and severe weather in the nation’s midsection.

Tornadoes in Iowa last week left at least five people dead and dozens injured. Storms killed eight people in Houston earlier this month. The severe thunderstorms and deadly twisters have spawned during a historically bad season for tornadoes, at a time when climate change contributes to the severity of storms around the world. April had the second-highest number of tornadoes on record in the country.

Harold Brooks, a senior scientist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, said a persistent pattern of warm, moist air is to blame for the string of tornadoes over the past two months.

That warm moist air is at the northern edge of a heat dome bringing temperatures typically seen at the height of summer to late May.

The heat index — a combination of air temperature and humidity to indicate how the heat feels to the human body — neared triple digits in parts of south Texas on Monday. Extreme heat was also forecast for San Antonio and Dallas.

In Florida, Melbourne and Ft. Pierce set new daily record highs Monday. Both hit 98 F (36.7 C). Miami set a record high of 96 F (35.5 C) on Sunday.

For more information on recent tornado reports, see The Associated Press Tornado Tracker.

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Schreiner reported from Louisville, Kentucky. Associated Press reporters Acacia Coronado in Austin, Texas, and Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.

Patti Manley, 69, moves a shredded American flag as she gathers branches from the backyard of her mother's home on Morningdale Place in Mehlville, Mo. on Monday, May 27, 2024, following a violent storm and possible tornado Sunday evening. Manley was staying with her mother Jackie Moloney, 88, when the storm hit. She and her mother rode it out in an interior bathroom. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

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Jackie Moloney, 88, hangs on to her shredded American flag on Monday, May 27, 2024 as her family cleans up on Morningdale Place in Mehlville, Mo. following a violent storm and possible tornado that hit Sunday evening. The storm destroyed her garage and sent part of a neighbor's roof into her backyard. Moloney's daughter Patti Manley got her up and into an interior bathroom as the storm hit. "We heard a loud whoosh," said Monloney, who bought her home new in 1965. "Thank God for family." (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

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Damage is seen after a storm the night before, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Pryor, Okla. (Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP)

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A man looks at a damaged car after a tornado hit the day before Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Valley View, Texas. Powerful storms left a wide trail of destruction Sunday across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas after obliterating homes and destroying a truck stop where drivers took shelter during the latest deadly weather to strike the central U.S. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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A home damaged by a storm the night before is seen, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Pryor, Okla. (Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP)

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Damage is seen at a truck stop the morning after a tornado rolled through, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Valley View, Texas. Powerful storms killed multiple people and left a wide trail of destruction Sunday across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas after obliterating homes and destroying a truck stop where drivers took shelter during the latest deadly weather to strike the central U.S. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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Will Worthey, left, and Lindsey Worthey of Rogers ,help clear debris from a downed tree at the home of Betty Wood on South 24th Street Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Rogers, Ark. Powerful storms left a wide trail of destruction across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. (Charlie Kaijo/The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)

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Destroyed homes are seen after a deadly tornado rolled through the previous night, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Valley View, Texas. Powerful storms left a wide trail of destruction Sunday across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas after obliterating homes and destroying a truck stop where drivers took shelter during the latest deadly weather to strike the central U.S. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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A decorative bull lies in a ditch along with a vehicle the morning after a tornado rolled through, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Valley View, Texas. Powerful storms left a wide trail of destruction Sunday across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas after obliterating homes and destroying a truck stop where drivers took shelter during the latest deadly weather to strike the central U.S. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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Damage is seen at a truck stop the morning after a tornado rolled through, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Valley View, Texas. Powerful storms left a wide trail of destruction Sunday across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas after obliterating homes and destroying a truck stop where drivers took shelter during the latest deadly weather to strike the central U.S. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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Connie Buckingham views storm damage from the front door of her son's home, where she also lives, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Claremore, Okla. Powerful storms left a wide trail of destruction Sunday across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas after obliterating homes and destroying a truck stop where dozens sought shelter in a restroom during the latest deadly weather to strike the central U.S. (Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP)

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The Home Town Flea Market was severly damaged from the storm, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Rogers, Ark. (Charlie Kaijo/The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)

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Popeyes is damaged from the storm at the shopping center on West Walnut Avenue and North 24th Street Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Rogers, Ark. (Charlie Kaijo/The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)

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Store owner Sidney Graham removes storm damage debris at Living Loved Lash and Body Studio on West Walnut Avenue Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Rogers, Ark. Powerful storms left a wide trail of destruction across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. (Charlie Kaijo/The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)

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Storm damage at a shopping center on West Walnut Avenue on Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Rogers, Ark. Powerful storms left a wide trail of destruction across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. (Charlie Kaijo/The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)

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Damage is seen at a truck stop the morning after a tornado rolled through, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Valley View, Texas. Powerful storms left a wide trail of destruction Sunday across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas after obliterating homes and destroying a truck stop where drivers took shelter during the latest deadly weather to strike the central U.S. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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Damage is seen to Tom Jones' home after the roof blew off during a storm, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Claremore, Okla. (Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP)

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Nathan Whatley of Garfield looks through a store window at a shopping center on West Walnut Ave and North 24th St. Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Rogers, Ark. Powerful storms left a wide trail of destruction across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. (Charlie Kaijo/The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)

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Destroyed homes are seen after a deadly tornado rolled through the previous night, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Valley View, Texas. Powerful storms left a wide trail of destruction Sunday across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas after obliterating homes and destroying a truck stop where drivers took shelter during the latest deadly weather to strike the central U.S. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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Storm damage is shown, Sunday, May 26, 2024, at a shopping center on West Walnut Avnue in Rogers, Ark. Powerful storms left a wide trail of destruction across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. (Charlie Kaijo/The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)

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