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Communities begin to recover after tornadoes and severe storms ravage areas across southern US over Memorial Day weekend: 'It's a big mess'

These storms are concerning because not only are they destructive, they're part of a larger pattern.

These storms are concerning because not only are they destructive, they're part of a larger pattern.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Memorial Day weekend quickly turned into a nightmare for many people across the central and southern U.S. as the area was ravaged by tornadoes and severe storms, leaving at least 22 people dead and many communities with major recovery work.

What's happening?

A series of powerful storms, including several tornadoes, swept across several states, leaving people dead in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kentucky and without power in eight other states.

Some of the fatalities occurred in a mobile home park and at an outdoor wedding. Everywhere, buildings and homes were destroyed, leaving many wondering how many months — or years — it will take for life to return to normal.

This is part of what's already gearing up to be an intense and deadly season. In the weeks preceding the Memorial Day storms, tornadoes and storms killed over a dozen people in Iowa and Texas and left many more injured. 

The month of April had the second-highest number of tornadoes on record in U.S. history, with the Associated Press calling it "a historically bad season for tornadoes, at a time when climate change contributes to the severity of storms around the world."

"It's a big mess," Rob Linton, a fire chief of Dawson Springs in Kentucky, told the AP. "Trees down everywhere. Houses moved. Power lines are down. No utilities whatsoever — no water, no power."

Why are these weather patterns concerning?

These storms are concerning because not only are they destructive, they're part of a larger pattern. Global heating warms the air in the atmosphere, which in turn allows it to absorb more moisture and helps to create "perfect storm" conditions that have made weather events like tornadoes and hurricanes stronger and longer-lasting over the past several years.

For example, one county in Kentucky was ravaged by tornadoes in 2021 in a deadly storm, and the recent 2024 storms tore down many houses that had just been rebuilt.

"The people of Kentucky are very weather-aware with everything we've been through," said Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear. 

The weather warnings continue for the summer, with severe storms predicted along the East Coast and record-breaking high temperatures forecast across the board.

What's being done about this?

Some companies are looking to innovate on the problem by developing things like disaster-resistant building materials.

Other organizations, including many governments, are focusing on ways to curb the increase of global temperatures as a way to mitigate exacerbated disaster risk. They're doing this in a number of ways, from issuing pollution standards to offering tax rebates and incentives on solar panels and electric vehicles.

And many communities are organizing to take local climate action in their areas, from planting native plants to installing bike lanes.

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