Tornadoes kill one, injure dozens as southern US faces heatwave

The heatwave has spurred thunderstorms, flooding and power outages from Florida to Texas, leaving 400,000 without electricity.

A tattered sign shows the aftermath of a tornado
A shredded billboard in Ridgeland, Mississippi, shows the aftermath of a tornado that tore through the area [Rogelio V Solis/AP Photo]

At least one person has been killed and about two dozen injured after tornadoes swept across Mississippi, as a heatwave smothers the southern United States and spurs inclement weather.

One tornado touched down on Sunday night in the town of Louin, Mississippi, about 112 kilometres (70 miles) east of the state capital Jackson, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Videos and photos show a landscape littered with debris and contorted trees. State emergency workers are still trying to give a full accounting of the damage.

Becky Collins – a spokesperson for Mississippi’s South Central Regional Medical Center, where most of those injured were taken for treatment – said that about 20 people had bruises and cuts, with most in stable condition.

As of Monday, more than 400,000 people in the southern US were without power, according to the website PowerOutage.us.

The heatwave has also contributed to tornadoes and thunderstorms in the states of Florida and Texas. Four people were killed last week, and flooding displaced approximately 150 people from their homes.

“It’s been unbearable,” Leigh Johnson, a resident of Mount Vernon, Texas, told television station KXAS, noting that she has been without power for three days.

“It’s been horrible because it’s like, the heat index has been so bad that literally, we’re having to sit in the cold baths to cool ourselves down. Our animals as well, we’re having to stick them in the bathtub just to keep them from having a heat stroke, it’s been that bad,” said Johnson.

The timing of the storms is peculiar, according to NWS meteorologist Eric Carpenter. He told the Associated Press, “What we would typically see in March and April, we’re seeing in June.”

“This is a whole different game here,” Carpenter added.

The NWS has predicted high temperatures across the south on Monday, with large swathes of the region experiencing heat around 95 degrees Fahrenheit, or approximately 35 degrees Celsius.

“A blistering heat wave will persist all this week in Texas, Louisiana, and parts of the Southern US,” the agency said in a Twitter post on Monday. “Thunderstorms, some severe, and heavy rainfall are possible the next few days across the Southeast. Critical fire weather conditions persist in the Southwest.”

Around the world, climate change has increased the threat of extreme heat, which has become more persistent and more intense. Warmer temperatures and heightened moisture from the Gulf of Mexico have also resulted in a shift in what’s commonly known as “Tornado Alley“, a region of the US known for its violent tornadoes.

Experts have warned that changing climate patterns — and hotter, wetter weather — may move “Tornado Alley” farther east, into more vulnerable, populated areas.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies