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Heat triggers major storms and power outages in southeastern US

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Forecasters warned people celebrating Father’s Day outdoors to take precautions triple digit temperatures sparked heat warnings across much of the southern United States, sparked thunderstorms that crippled the river from Oklahoma to Mississippi, and gusted winds that threatened wildfires in Arizona and New Mexico.

A suspected tornado struck near Scranton, Arkansas early Sunday, destroying chicken coops and downing trees on homes, the National Weather Service said. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries.

Forecasters said potentially record-breaking temperatures would continue through midweek over south Texas and much of the Gulf Coast. Storms with damaging winds, hail and possible tornadoes could hit the lower Mississippi Valley.

“If you have outdoor plans, then #FathersDayDon’t forget to practice heat protection! Take frequent breaks, stay hydrated and NEVER leave people/pets alone in the car!” the Houston Weather Service Bureau said Twitter.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency for the northern and central portions of his state after strong winds and severe weather led to widespread power outages on Saturday. According to the information, more than 740,000 people in Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi were without power as of Sunday PowerOutage.us.

About 30 people spent Saturday night at a refrigeration center in Shreveport, Louisiana. Residents are grateful to have a place to escape the sweltering heat, said Madison Poche, director of the nonprofit Highland Center, which opened its doors to anyone in need of a place to cool off.

“We definitely broke a few people down in tears because people are stuck in pretty hot rooms and they really just need a space where they’re physically comfortable for a while,” Poche said. She added that damage from the Shreveport storm appears to be widespread.

In Florida, the weather service issued another heat warning on Sunday, this time mainly for the Florida Keys. Forecasters said heat index levels — the combination of high temperatures and oppressive humidity — could reach between 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees Celsius) and 112 degrees (45 degrees Celsius) in places like Key Largo, Marathon and Key West.

“These conditions increase the risk of heat illness for people outdoors or in unair-conditioned spaces,” the weather service said in a statement.

In the Southwest, where firefighters are battling multiple wildfires in Arizona and New Mexico, forecasters said triple-digit temperatures and gusty winds would lead to critical fire weather over the next few days. Sunday promised to be Arizona’s hottest day of the year, with highs reaching 110 degrees (43.5C) in Phoenix.

Wind gusts of 30 to 40 miles per hour (48-64 km/h) on Sunday east of Flagstaff, Arizona along the Interstate-40 corridor and up to 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) on Monday were forecast would result in potentially critical fire weather across much of northeastern New Mexico.

A large bushfire that broke out south of Tucson, Arizona Friday afternoon paralyzed a state highway on Saturday. Arizona 83 reopened Sunday and no home was in immediate danger, authorities said.

The prolonged closure has taken a toll on local businesses on a normally busy Father’s Day weekend in an area of ​​recreational lakes and reservoirs.

Dena Proez said the only business at her Corner Scoop ice cream shop off the freeway in Sonoita was serving a few travelers who stopped to learn about the fire “and feeding all the firefighters.”

The weather service said much of Nevada was experiencing strong winds gusting up to 55 miles per hour (88 km/h) and kicking up dust that could obscure highway visibility.

Associated Press writers Kim Chandler in Montgomery, Alabama; Curt Anderson in St. Petersburg, Fla.; and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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