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Jefferson City, Cole County officials plan for future assistance

Jefferson City, Cole County officials plan for future assistance

May 24th, 2019 by Bob Watson in Local News

Sally Ince/ News Tribune Gov. Mike Parson speaks during a press conference at the Cole County Sheriff Office Thursday May 23, 2019 to announce the extensive damange that occured after a tornado struck the city. Damages were reported through the center part of town stretching from Ellis Boulevard to East Dunklin Street.

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The tornado hit Jefferson City just before midnight.

However, the storm had already followed U.S. 54 on its path from the Eldon area into the Capital City, so first responders had a little time to be on alert.

And emergency services from other areas were quick to offer their assistance to local officials.

Jefferson City Police Lt. David Williams told the News Tribune there was no "master list" of those agencies, but they included law enforcement assistance from the Missouri Highway Patrol's Troop F, Columbia and Holts Summit police departments and several area county sheriffs.

Jefferson City Fire Chief Matt Schofield noted the Boone County Fire Protection District's Missouri Task Force 1 search-and-rescue specialists joined with JCFD and Cole County EMS personnel in checking homes in the 3-mile area of the tornado, to make sure all people were well and accounted for.

Williams said the emergency plan worked as well as expected.

"We triggered the first siren warning at 11:10 p.m.," he said, and a second one at 11:17 p.m.

Williams said local officials are in charge of the emergency operations.

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"It's a joint Jefferson City-Cole County situation," he said, with Emergency Management Director Bill Farr coordinating with Jefferson City police and the Cole County sheriff's office.

Mike O'Connell, spokesman for the Missouri Public Safety Department, said the State Emergency Management Agency provided some assistance.

"(SEMA) arranged 10 large lights with generators for Jefferson City (and) helped arrange trucks, plows and loaders for debris removal," O'Connell reported. "(SEMA also) helped coordinate establishment of one Red Cross shelter and a donation from Argyle Catering for mass feeding of shelter residents and first responders."

The State Emergency Management Agency also helped bring about 16 members of the "Missouri Structural Assessment and Visual Evaluation," or SAVE, Coalition into Jefferson City, to work on building inspections today.

"SAVE is a group of volunteer engineers, architects, building inspectors and other trained professionals that assists the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency with building damage inspections," O'Connell said. "After a disaster, SAVE volunteers are trained to move quickly, to determine which buildings are safe to use and which should be evacuated."

At a 6 a.m. briefing Thursday — even as officials still were determining what areas had experienced the storm damage — Gov. Mike Parson said he appreciated the first responders and their work.

"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," the governor — a former Polk County sheriff — said.

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"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."

Williams said law officers were aware of social media posts that some buildings had collapsed and people were trapped, but those reports were not accurate.

"There was a lot of social media," he said, especially in the early hours after the storm hit — primarily from people who traveled into the areas where the damage had occurred.

However, those reports lessened, Williams said, as emergency services people were able to determine what had happened and how much damage had occurred.

Even 12 hours after the storm passed through Jefferson City, he said, people who don't belong in those areas should stay away from them — and the city imposed a curfew from 9 p.m. Thursday through 5 a.m. today for the area between Madison Street on the west and Lafayette Street on the east, and bounded by the Missouri River on the north and Stadium Boulevard on the south.

Mayor Carrie Tergin's proclamation also allows Police Chief Roger Schroeder to "reinstitute this curfew on a nightly basis," or to "reduce the curfew area in his discretion."

Several ambulance providers from other parts of the state offered to help out — but Cole County EMS reported taking only about 2 dozen people to hospitals for treatment.