Violent tornadoes tear across Missouri, killing 3 and leaving extensive damage
Government officials and residents in Missouri began picking up the pieces and assessing the damage on Thursday after a deadly tornado outbreak in the late-night hours ravaged several parts of the state including the capital, Jefferson City.
A large tornado tore through Jefferson City late Wednesday night around 11:45 p.m CDT. The National Weather Service in St. Louis issued a tornado emergency for the area after a 'violent tornado' was confirmed on the ground. First responders worked through the night to begin search and rescue efforts for people who were trapped in collapsed buildings.
Jefferson City Police have confirmed at least 20 citizens were transported to local hospitals.
The Jefferson City tornado was given a preliminary rating of EF3 on Thursday afternoon, meaning it had a peak wind speed of 160 mph.
Three people were killed in Golden City, Missouri, after a tornado moved across the region Wednesday evening, according to The Joplin Globe. A tornadic thunderstorm tracked from Ottawa County, Oklahoma, into Bexter Springs and Galena, Kansas, and then into Carl Junction, Oronogo and Golden City, Missouri.
The victims' identities were released later Thursday morning. Missouri Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. John Lueckenhoff told the Associated Press that the bodies of 86-year-old Kenneth Harris and his 83-year-old wife, Opal, were killed in the storm. Their bodies were reportedly found about 200 yards from their home.
Just west of Golden City, 56-year-old Betty Berg was killed when her mobile home was destroyed. Her husband, Mark, was seriously injured.
Golden City and Jefferson City are about three hours apart. Golden City is located in southwestern Missouri, while Jefferson City is located farther north in the central part of the state.
Wednesday's round of damaging thunderstorms erupted over the central United States Wednesday night into Thursday, right on the heels of a severe weather outbreak across the region earlier this week.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson confirmed damage to state buildings and that power was out in some areas. Parson had previously declared a state of emergency earlier this week due to the repeated rounds of severe weather and the ongoing flood threat.
"Across the state, Missouri’s first responders once again responded quickly and with strong coordination as much of the state dealt with extremely dangerous conditions that left people injured, trapped in homes, and tragically led to the death of three people," Parson said in a Thursday morning press conference.
The governor took an aerial tour of the tornado damage and ongoing flooding Thursday morning which he said has been "devastating" the state.
President Donald Trump issued condolences to those in the affected regions in a tweet Thursday.
"Our hearts go out to the people of Missouri as they woke up to assess the damage from storms. You are strong and resilient, and we are here to assist," Trump tweeted.
Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin issued an updated declaration of emergency that was executed on May 22 and related to the flooding of the Missouri River and its tributaries.
Residents interviewed in the aftermath of the storms described the frightening ordeal as they surveyed damage. "I thought we were dead," resident Larry Jett, of Jefferson City, told Martin Augustine a reporter with KMBC. Jett told Augustine that he and his mother were "picked up off the floor and thrown back down."
Another Jefferson City resident told KMOV that the tornado "felt like an earthquake."
The Red Cross said it has opened a shelter in Jefferson City at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
Among the agencies responding to the tornado were the Jefferson City Fire Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Missouri Task Force 1, a specialized urban search and rescue team.
In addition to tornadoes, thunderstorms through Wednesday night brought all modes of severe weather, including flash flooding, destructive hail larger than golf balls and wind gusts over 70 mph.
Threatening storms tracked near the Joplin, Missouri, area, but ultimately didn't leave any extensive damage behind in the city. For Joplin, the risk of damaging storms and tornadoes came on the anniversary of the devastating EF5 that tore through the city in 2011.
Since Monday, there have been nearly 100 tornado reports across the Central states and the threat will continue on Thursday and Friday. Over 30 were reported Wednesday.
The three fatalities in Missouri bring the death toll of the severe weather outbreak up to seven.
Two people were killed in a traffic accident near Springfield, Missouri, on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. The Missouri Highway Patrol told the AP that heavy rain was a contributing factor in the crash. One fatality was reported in Perkins, Oklahoma, about 45 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, when a motorist drowned on Tuesday after driving around a high water warning barricade and into a flooded roadway, according to emergency management officials.
A tornado-related death was reported in Adair, Iowa, after severe storms ripped through the area early Wednesday. The Adair County Sheriff's office told the AP that emergency responders recovered the body of 74-year-old Linda Brownlee, while 78-year-old Harold Brownlee was flown to a hospital to be treated for injuries. The Adair/Guthrie County Emergency Manager said one building was destroyed and two to three outbuildings were damaged on the farm, located just south of Interstate 80.
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Additional rounds of severe thunderstorms are in the forecast for the central U.S. on Thursday and Friday. This includes a similar area to Wednesday’s storms, extending from Texas to Illinois.
The first tornado on Wednesday was confirmed near Cromwell, Oklahoma, located east of Oklahoma City. Several homes were destroyed in Jay, Oklahoma, after a tornado touched down, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and Department of Public Safety. No injuries were reported.
Some parts of the southern Plains have received more than a month’s worth of rain since the weekend. Deadly storms that ripped across Oklahoma and neighboring states earlier this week sparked dozens of reported tornadoes and on Wednesday resulted in devastating floods throughout parts of Oklahoma. Rain from this new round of thunderstorms could cause floodwaters to expand even further, inundating more roads and communities.
“Because multiple storms may move repeatedly over the same locations late this week, flooding will again be a major concern. Some communities may receive another 3 to 6 inches of rain on top of what already fell early this week,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Kyle Elliott said.
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