Five people were dead and more than 640,000 customers across Southern US were without power Sunday afternoon as storms and extreme weather continued to rip through the region, according to the tracking website PowerOutage.us.
Oklahoma was the state hardest hit by power outages, with more than 290,800 customers without electricity, according to PowerOutage.us. More than 110,000 in both Louisiana and Texas were out of power, while more than 62,000 were out in Arkansas and more than 53,000 were out in Mississippi, according to the power outage tracker, NBC news reported.
The National Weather Service warned early Sunday that parts of the region were expected to get severe thunderstorms and heavy rainfall, along with excessive heat warnings and critical fire weather risk, defined as low relative humidity, strong surface wind, unstable air and drought, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.
The weather service office in Houston urged Texans to take precautions as the heat index was greater than 113 degrees, tweeting: “Take frequent breaks, stay hydrated, NEVER leave people/pets alone in a car!”
Gov. Greg Abbott visited Perryton in the Texas Panhandle, where officials said more than 1,000 customers were without electricity after a tornado killed three people late Thursday. The Perryton Ochiltree Chamber of Commerce said it would open a cooling center in the town of 8,000 people, about 115 miles northeast of Amarillo, to counteract the effects of the high temperatures that followed the storm.
“At times of events like these, Texans come together,” Abbott told reporters as he signed a disaster declaration that he said would “trigger all the resources the state can bring to bear … to accelerate the ability to rebuild.”
Abbott said he was shocked to see how much of the town had been destroyed, and he praised what he called “nonstop heroic efforts by health care providers,” who he said treated 160 injured people at the local hospital, which has just 25 beds.
Several counties in Mississippi were under severe thunderstorm warnings and could get hail, strong winds and tornadoes, the weather service office in Jackson said.
A person was reported dead in Madison County, about 30 miles north of Jackson, after severe weather Friday damaged at least 69 homes, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
The National Weather Service office in Tulsa said on Twitter that Oklahoma residents should expect temperatures into the 90s the next couple of days, and it urged them take precautions to beat the heat, adding that “heat impacts will quickly become a concern early this week, especially for those that remain without power OR those involved in storm recovery efforts.”
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said early Sunday afternoon that it could take hours for emergency crews to clear major roadways that had become impassable because of fallen trees, NBC affiliate KJRH of Tulsa reported.
The weather service office in New Orleans warned of “gusty winds and deadly lightning” from developing thunderstorms coming out of Jackson County, Mississippi, about 110 miles to the east.
The city of New Orleans opened cooling centers and hydration stations and advised residents to take extra precautions if they were spending time outside by wearing lightweight and loose-fitting clothing, taking frequent rest breaks in shaded or air-conditioned environments and drinking lots of water.
Entergy New Orleans and the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans suspended electricity shut-offs for delinquent accounts through Tuesday.
Strong winds and hail were also expected throughout several counties in Arkansas, according to the weather service office in Little Rock.
In Florida, a person was pronounced dead Thursday after having been trapped under a tree at home following a tornado, Escambia County Public Information Officer Andie Gibson said.
In Clearwater, about 500 miles southeast of Escambia County, a waterspout came ashore Friday afternoon, “sending beach-related items flying into the air” and injuring two people from Kansas, city officials said in an email.
Authorities said a 70-year-old woman and a 63-year-old man were treated for minor injuries at a local hospital. Their identities were not made public.
Waterspouts develop over water, usually during severe thunderstorms or tornadoes, and dissipate rapidly when they make landfall, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Some can cause significant damage and injuries.