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Tornado cuts swath of destruction through Jefferson City

Tornado cuts swath of destruction through Jefferson City

Eldon also suffers damage

May 23rd, 2019 by News Tribune in Local News

First responders evacuate residents from Capital City Apartments early Thursday May 23, 2019 after a violent tornado hit Jefferson City at approximately 11:45 p.m. Wednesday.

Photo by Sally Ince /News Tribune.

Gallery: Initial May 22, 2019 Tornado Photo Gallery

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Update posted at 7:50 a.m.

The path of severe destruction from Wednesday night's tornado in Jefferson City stretched from Christy Drive north to the Missouri River.

Cole County Sheriff John Wheeler said they believe the tornadoes actually began on Missouri 17 in the southern part of the county and traveled north to Jefferson City. Twin Bridges Trailer Park was hit and that Beck Road and Heritage Highway also saw heavy property damage.

During this morning's briefing at the Cole County Sheriff's Department, Gov. Mike Parson pledged the full support of state government to help the city in recovering from this disaster.

"We are grateful there were no deaths reported here and that no one was reported missing," Parson said. "It appears that people were taking heed to the warnings that were being put out.

Lt. David Williams, Jefferson City Police Department spokesman, said the first indications of the storm coming in were around 11:10 p.m. By 11:46 p.m., the 911 Center had received its first report of damages.

As of this morning, only 20 people were reported to have been taken to local hospitals for treatment of injuries in Cole County.

"We plan to go door to door to check on people and properties throughout today," Williams said. "We'll do that as long as we have to."

Williams also said Ameren Missouri was providing six to seven additional crews to restore power in the city.

Missouri Department of Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten did report that the Department of Labor building on Dunklin Street had roof damage and maybe more.

Lincoln University suffered damage on its campus, according to Jefferson City 4th Ward Councilman Carlos Graham. He said among the worst of the damage was at the president's home.

Williams said two shelters were being set up to assist those who may need help and they probably would get a third with the help of the Red Cross.

Update posted at 5:35 a.m.:

Gov. Mike Parson thanked the state's first responders and Missourians who came to the aid of neighbors during a series of dangerous tornadoes and severe weather Wednesday night.

The storms were blamed for three deaths in Golden City in Barton County, according to law enforcement. Among the areas hardest hit areas were Jefferson City, Carl Junction and Eldon.

Parson, who is to meet with first responders in Jefferson City at 6 a.m. today, urged citizens to stay away from damaged areas in the Capital City, as well as in other damaged areas of the state.

With many buildings and areas being compromised in Jefferson City, Parson announced non-essential state employees in the Jefferson City area should not report to work today.

"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. "I want our responders and all the neighbors who acted selflessly to help their neighbors to know how much their heroic efforts are appreciated by all Missourians."

At 5 a.m. today, Lt. Dave Williams, public information officer with the Jefferson City Police Department, announced in a press release no fatalities have been reported in the city due to the storm and that about 20 people have been transported by emergency medical services for treatment.

He echoed Parson's plea to citizens to stay away from the impacted areas so emergency personnel could perform their duties.

Williams said there are still concerns for the businesses located in the impacted area and that law enforcement is encouraging employees to wait to begin cleanup efforts. The utilities in the damaged homes and businesses present a hazard as power is restored, he said.

Williams said shelters have been established with the assistance of the local Red Cross, which is asking individuals to contact them by using the Red Cross Safe at Home app.

At 7:30 a.m. today, City Council will meet to get an update on the storm damage, as well as conditions regarding the expected flooding by the Missouri River.

Posted earlier, last updated at 4:10 a.m.:

Around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, an apparent tornado or tornadoes followed U.S. 54 from Eldon through Brazito in Cole County and into the Jefferson City.

Authorities were still attempting to determine the damages to life and property early Thursday morning.

Jefferson City Lt. David Williams said the affected areas are still being determined.

"It's too early to say how wide a swath was that the storm went through," he said.

The most affected areas in Jefferson City were Ellis Boulevard at U.S. 54 and the Stadium Drive/Dunklin Street area, he said. Williams said the damage inside the city was as far south as the Route 179 and 54 interchange and as far north as a couple blocks south of the Missouri River.

Williams said the first sirens were activated in the city at 11:10 p.m. Around 11:30 p.m., there was the first report of rotation in the Brazito area as the twister moved northeasterly from Eldon, where reports on social media showed buildings with damage. The first reports of damage in Cole County came eight minutes later.

The sirens were reactivated in Jefferson City at 11:40 p.m. The first reports of damage in the city came in at 11:47 p.m.

"We are still trying to determine how much damage we have, we are still trying to identify any injured people," he said.

Williams did not want to estimate how many people were injured or if there were any fatalities, saying there were "multiple" calls of people being injured.

He said the damage assessment will continue throughout the night and into the morning.

"Daylight will help us identify the affected areas," Williams said, adding resources in the air will be used as well.

Multiple reports of trees down, some roofs blown off were received. Jefferson City Fire Department officials reported the worst of the damage was from Ellis Boulevard and on east toward Stadium Boulevard.

At Ellis Boulevard, near the intersection with U.S. 54, roofs on businesses such as Breaktime, Sonic and others were damaged. Hawthorne and Capitol City apartments were also reported damaged.

The area of Ellis from 54 to Christy Drive had debris requiring heavy equipment to be brought in to clear the street and get emergency crews into the area. Heavy equipment called or brought their equipment out to begin the removal process in many parts of the city and county.

All public works crews as well as emergency service crews in Jefferson City and Cole County were called in to assist.

Mutual aid from Holts Summit for fire crews to help Jefferson City was called as well.

Due to power lines and other debris in the streets, emergency crews had to go to potential rescue situations on foot.

The area of Burger King toward Riley Chevrolet had multiple utility lines down. A tractor trailer truck was apparently blown over in the parking lot of the Best Western Hotel.

Emergency crews had to go to various locations in Jefferson City where elevators were stuck such as Capitol Plaza Hotel and the Housing Authority apartments at 12 Jackson Street.

Throughout the early morning Wednesday, first responders went door to door in many areas of the east side of Jefferson City, knocking on doors to check on residents.

The amount of damage in the east side of Jefferson City is significant.

John Botts who lives on Hickory Street said damage to his family's home included a tree into the rear of their home.

"I lived in Oklahoma and never went through a tornado there. Now I get to deal with insurance. Never had to do that before. The main thing is me and my wife are safe."

Heavy equipment operators had to remove large trees from in front of Botts home to make it passable, after that, emergency crews began to make their way around town with barricades to make sure traffic didn't travel in hazardous areas.

Some of the historic homes on Woodlawn Avenue had large trees in their yards blown over which damaged parts of the homes.

Residents who got out to look at the damage said they'd never gone through anything like this and glad they weren't hurt.

Thomas Jefferson Middle School at 1201 Fairgrounds Road is open as a shelter, as is First Student bus transportation at 321 Norman Drive, according to Jefferson City Public Schools Director of Facilities Frank Underwood.

The Missouri Department of Labor announced that, due to storm damage, the Employment Security Office Building, 421 E. Dunklin St., will be closed Thursday.

Coverage will be updated with additional information as it becomes available.

Posted at 12:35 a.m.:

A tornado hit parts of Jefferson City Wednesday night just before midnight. 

Police, fire personnel and other workers are responding to various locations. The path of the twister seems to have been through the center part of town along or near U.S. 54.

Lt. David Williams told reporters during a 2 a.m. briefing that, in spite of some initial reports, there are no "collapsed" buildings, although there are damages.

Electricity is out in many Jefferson City locations and power lines down. Traffic lights are not working at certain intersections and traffic is treating them as four-way stops. There's debris in the streets that includes twigs, branches, pieces of wood, concrete, twisted metal and other material.

Williams issued an earlier statement at 1:23 a.m.: "We are currently identifying the location of damages and searching for injured residents. The primary need at this time is for those not affected to stay clear of the impacted areas so that Emergency personnel can assist those in need."

Prior to the arrival, a tornado warning had been issued by the National Weather Service for Cole County several minutes before the twister reached the city limits. It first was reported as being on the ground in the Eldon, Hickory Hill and Brazito areas. There are reports of storm damage in Eldon.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson posted to Twitter at 12:36 a.m.: "Major tornados across state tonight, including Jeff City. We're doing okay but praying for those that were caught in damage, some are still trapped - local emergency crews are on site and assisting."

The Missouri Public Safety Department (@MoPublicSafety) posted to Twitter at 12:52 a.m.: "In Jefferson City, the state capital, there is extensive damage along Ellis Boulevard near Highway 54. Power lines are down. Traffic is being diverted as @MSHPTrooperGHQ & local first responders go door-to-door. Consider all power lines live. Stay out of areas with damage. #MoWx"