The death toll due to severe storms slamming several southern and central states in the US has risen to at least 43. In Texas, at least 11 people died after a series of tornadoes hit the Dallas area. The remaining 30 people were killed in Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Illinois, Alabama and Arkansas.
According to Reuters, a twister ravaged the city of Garland, Texas, claiming the lives of eight people and blowing cars off the highways. "A tornado of that strength is very rare in a metropolitan area," National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Bishop told the news agency.
"It is total devastation," Garland Police spokesman Lieutenant Pedro Barineau added. "It is a very difficult time to be struck by such a horrible storm the day after Christmas."
The tornado in Garland was rated as an EF-4, the second-most powerful tornado on the damage scale used by meteorologists. The National Weather Service also said that a tornado in neighbouring Rowlett was likely an EF-3, with winds up to 165mph.
Officials said three deaths were reported in the Dallas metropolitan area, with a population of around 7 million people. Two of those deaths occurred in the unincorporated town of Copeville and another in Blue Ridge, Fox News reported. Officials estimated that nearly 1,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. At least 38 people were reported injured throughout Texas.
Texas Governor Greg Abbot announced disaster declarations for four counties — Dallas, Collin, Rockwall and Ellis— and warned that the death toll could rise.
Mississippi reported the second-highest death toll, with 10 people dying due to the severe storms. According to the Daily Mail, six were killed in Tennessee and two in Alabama.
Flash floods were responsible for the deaths of at least 13 in Illinois and Missouri, officials and local media reported. Pulaski County Sheriff Ron Long in Missouri said six adults drowned after driving their vehicles into flooded waterways. Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency after announcing at least eight had been killed throughout the state. WJBD, based in Salem, Illinois, reported that a family consisting of three adults and two children was driving near Patoka when their vehicle was washed away in the floods.
In Arkansas, at least three tornadoes were reported on 27 December, according to the National Weather Service. Heavy snow and flooding also reached western Arkansas, eastern Missouri, eastern Kansas and parts of Missouri, the Daily Mail reported. At least one person was reported dead in Arkansas.
According to Reuters, severe weather advisories have been issued for several states in central US. New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas received blizzard warnings, while a flash flood watch was set stretching from Texas to Indiana. New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez even declared a state of emergency for the state with reports of a winter storm expected to drop up to two feet of snow.