This story was updated at 12:10 p.m. May 23, 2019.
As daylight reveals the damage left behind by last night's tornado, Jefferson City officials are urging displaced residents to seek shelter as emergency response personnel go door-to-door to check on residents.
The Jefferson City Council and Cole County Commission held a special meeting Thursday morning so city and county staff could brief them what emergency personnel are doing to address the tornado damage.
Shelter and volunteering
The city and county have a shelter set up at the Thomas Jefferson Middle School, and Jefferson City Fire Chief Matt Schofield said they plan to set up another shelter soon. Those seeking non-emergency help can also call the Police Department at 573-634-6400.
City buses are not running today because many of the buses run through the impacted areas, Jefferson City Public Works Director Matt Morasch said. The buses are available to transfer people to the shelter, he added.
Officials said the United Way is coordinating potential volunteers for clean up efforts in the next few days. Volunteers can call United Way at 2-1-1.
"At this point, we still don't have a need for volunteers because we're still trying to make the area safe," said Lt. Dave Williams, Jefferson City Police Department spokesman.
Cole County Emergency Management Director Bill Farr added: "With the news media that's coming, we've got a lot of people who want to come in and help with searches. We want to make sure that we do that in a critical way and not have people wander around everywhere and not see things right."
The American Red Cross has also volunteered to have a Safe At Home program so those looking for family members or friends can contact the Red Cross at 573-635-1132.
Search and rescue efforts
Schofield said they began door-to-door checks around 6 a.m. and will continue in the impacted area, bordered by the Missouri River, Madison Street, Lafayette Street and the 2200 block of Christy Drive.
"If there isn't really any evidence of damage, we're just simply going to knock on the door, do a 360 around the back and look in windows and make sure everything looks good from the outside," Schofield said. "If there is significant damage to your home and you're in the affected area and there is a chance someone may be home, there's a good chance that we're going to try and get in there to make sure."
He urged residents in the impacted area to either be present at their homes when emergency personnel go door-to-door or leave information for the personnel so they know whether or not residents are inside the structures.
Since there are several utility issues in the affected area, Schofield said, Ameren UE personnel are shadowing emergency personnel to address some of those challenges.
Jefferson City building code officials are also following search and rescue teams to "get an initial glance at the impact of buildings and what their long-term prognosis might be in terms of condemned and buildings that are not habitable so people know if they will need to find shelter in the new future," Schofield said.
The first indications of storm damage were shortly after 11 p.m., Williams said. By 11:46 p.m., the 911 Center had received its first report of damages, he added.