A clearer picture emerged Friday of the size and scope of the powerful tornadoes that tore across Missouri on Wednesday night, leaving trails of destruction in their paths. The state’s capital, Jefferson City, was among the hardest-hit places, struck overnight by a tornado with a peak wind speed of 160 mph that has been given preliminary rating of EF3. The monstrous nighttime tornado was almost a mile wide and was on the ground for nearly 20 miles, toppling homes, ripping roofs off homes and business below. At least 20 citizens were transported to local hospitals, according to Jefferson City Police, but no fatalities were reported.
Many historic structures in the capital city are now in tatters. “It’s pretty devastating to see it in shambles,” an onlooker said to Petramala. Damages from the devastating tornado stretch over about 30 miles, leaving a long road to recovery for many survivors.
The city’s police and fire department went into action after the tornado moved in. Other agencies, the state, the county and surrounding cities came together to assist by sending resources and officers to the scene.
“We’re very, very fortunate, with the amount of significant damage, that we did not have a lot of injuries and thankfully, there have been no fatalities reported,” Tergin said.
While the city was still assessing the total number of buildings destroyed, Tergin described the damages as “expansive from one end of town to the other.” It started on the south end of Jefferson City and moved through the central core and out.
“It really left a pretty widespread path,” Tergin said. “It hit things from businesses to our brand new Special Olympics Training for Life facility. It hit a car dealership, and it literally had cars on top of each other.”
Power lines and trees were down everywhere. A lot of neighborhoods were hit, as well as a very historic area, Capital Avenue, suffered significant damage.
Other tornadoes – some deadly
The damage from tornadoes spread further through the central U.S. A tornadic thunderstorm tracked from Ottawa County, Oklahoma, into Bexter Springs and Galena, Kansas, and then into Carl Junction, Oronogo and Golden City, Missouri.
Preliminary damage surveys were done on these tornadoes from the National Weather Service (NWS) in Springfield, Missouri. The Golden City – 3 dead – and Carl Junction tornadoes were rated EF3 with maximum winds near 140 mph. The Oronogo tornado was rated an EF0, according to officials at the National Weather Service (NWS).
“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.
Tornado outbreak and other extreme weather
Since Monday, there have been nearly 130 tornado reports across the Central states, and the threat will continue through Friday. At least 45 were reported on Wednesday. Some of these reports may be duplicates of the same tornado, meaning the final tally of tornadoes could eventually change.
In addition to tornadoes, other forms of severe weather rolled through the central U.S. Wednesday night, including flash flooding, destructive hail larger than golf balls and wind gusts over 70 mph. Severe weather reports have been recorded through a large portion of the U.S. from Tuesday to Thursday.
Some parts of the southern Plains have been hit with more than a month’s worth of rain since last weekend. Deadly storms that ripped across Oklahoma and neighboring states earlier last week sparked dozens of reported tornadoes and on Wednesday resulted in devastating floods throughout parts of Oklahoma. More thunderstorms could cause floodwaters to expand even further, continuing to inundate roads and communities.
The three tornado-related fatalities in Missouri bring the death toll of the severe weather outbreak up to nine for the week.