Renowned Australian photographer and storm chaser Dale Sharpe has been killed in Kansas in a sequence of random events as the death toll rises after a week of powerful thunderstorms and tornadoes lashed the southern states.
The Kansas Highway Patrol said the 36-year-old Queenslander was driving just after midnight on Thursday local time when he hit a deer, forcing his car onto a southbound lane of the K2 highway.
His death, while not caused by severe storms, takes the death toll to 26 after a 1600 kilometre storm band continues to bring further severe winds, lightning strikes, hail and tornadoes from Indiana and central Ohio to central Texas and northern Louisiana.
A post on Mr Sharpe’s Instagram account, dkphotgraphyau, on Thursday informed “with the deepest regret” his many friends, colleagues and 132,000 followers of his death.
“The vehicle started to billow smoke from the engine bay and Dale sought refuge on the side of the road,” the statement said.
“A passing motorist avoided colliding with the stranded vehicle at the last moment by leaving the road.
“Dale ran for cover into a ditch, however it’s understood the same oncoming vehicle sought refuge in the same direction simultaneously and he was subsequently struck.”
An ambassador for Nikon, Mr Sharpe and his wife Karlie Russell, also a renowned photographer, travelled the world with their cameras, including chasing storms across America’s heartland to capture awe-inspiring images.
Meanwhile, more than 250,000 people are without power across the US and a 19-year-old man died when a tree fell on his home in Arkansas where more than 70,000 homes and businesses were without power on Thursday.
And 3500 flights across the eastern states have either been delayed or cancelled in the past 12 hours, according to Flightstats, with airports around New York including Newark and JFK airports subject to ground delays as rain and storms moved through the city.
The national Storm Prediction Centre said fallen trees ripped down powerlines and crashed into buildings on Friday (AEST) along a line from Texas to Alabama, leaving one person dead and dozens injured.
The National Weather Service reported isolated tornadoes have already lashed northeast Texas and winds of up to 137km/h damaged roofs of houses and businesses.
More than 30,000 outages each were reported in Texas, Louisiana and Alabama, where crews were working to remove toppled trees and clear blocked roads.
The storms were moving eastward, with more severe weather possible on Thursday in Alabama and Georgia and all the way up to Pennsylvania.
Potential for severe storms & localized flash flooding today across much of the eastern US, especially for the southern mid Atlantic region from southern VA, NC, SC, and into eastern GA. where the threat is particularly enhanced for damaging winds, and possibly a few tornadoes. pic.twitter.com/Jo2R0ye9h4
— NWS Eastern Region (@NWSEastern) June 20, 2019
Flood-weary residents in the Missouri River Valley are bracing for tornadoes and large hail while in Ohio, heavy rains led to landslides and flooded highways.
Flood waters inundated commuter train stations and forced services to be suspended between Philadelphia and New Jersey.
The Delaware River was overflowing its banks in places, and people were being rescued from high water.