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Volunteer efforts pick up steam in tornado's aftermath

Volunteer efforts pick up steam in tornado's aftermath

Flooding conditions persist in Mid-Missouri as tornado cleanup is underway

May 26th, 2019 by Danisha Hogue in Local News

Greg Atkinson, husband of La Chica Loca breakfast burritos owner Amanda Jensen, steps out of his wife's damaged food truck for some fresh air Saturday afternoon as it rests surrounded by rubble and debris from the crumbling walls of Avenue HQ. Jensen said she initially thought the trailer was salvageable, but it was likely a total loss after discovering that Wednesday's tornado had lifted the mobile kitchen and slammed it into the rear wall of Avenue HQ, damaging much of the equipment inside. In addition to her food truck, Jensen also lost a lot of the kitchen prep equipment she had stored inside Avenue HQ, as the property has been deemed structurally unsafe to enter.

Photo by Kris Wilson

Gallery: May 22, 2019, Tornado Photo Gallery

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The tornado that slammed Jefferson City last week has drawn community members together to repair.

The EF-3 tornado originated near Eldon, damaging buildings, businesses, land and residences around 11:45 p.m. Wednesday in Jefferson City.

Since the disaster, emergency officials and volunteers have made restorative efforts for Cole and Miller counties.

The United Way of Central Missouri led volunteers in disaster recovery efforts Saturday morning.

A total of 235 volunteers reported to Capital Mall in Jefferson City beginning at 10 a.m.

"United Way of Central Missouri is so incredibly grateful for all the people stepping forward to help rebuild our community," said Amber Brondel, the local United Way's communication manager.

The call to service for today is 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at the same location. The organization is working with St. Louis AmeriCorps to coordinate work assignments in the area.

Volunteers should be age 18 or older. Before going to the site, workers need work gloves, long pants and closed-toed shoes. Volunteers also should consider carpooling, as parking is limited and traffic is heavy in the tornado-affected area.

Anyone interested in volunteering may continue to register through unitedway.com/volunteer or call 573-462-9904.

Lunch will be provided today by Legends Bank at Jefferson City Hall, 320 E. McCarty St. Volunteers and people affected by the tornado will be served at 11 a.m.

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The Jefferson City Public Works Department appreciates the help from volunteers in the disaster area, Director Matt Morasch said, adding property owners should know they can call to request assistance with clean up by dialing 211.

As debris and building material are identified, the city recommends splitting them into two separate piles and placing them as close to the curb as possible, avoiding fire hydrants. Throughout the next several weeks, Morasch said, the city will collect the materials and take them to the landfill. Vegetation will be picked up and ground into mulch for the city.

"We're just trying to get the vegetation where it can be ground up and be reused," Morasch said.

Crews will continue to work through the weekend with volunteers to clear what they can. Officials urge those who are not volunteering to stay clear of the tornado-affected area.

Shelters

Fifty individuals stayed in American Red Cross shelters in Jefferson City and Eldon on Friday night.

Both areas were heavily damaged in Wednesday night's tornado.

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The Humane Society of Missouri has declared room for 20 pets of people staying at the Jefferson City shelter at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, 1201 Fairgrounds Road. Food and water will be available to pets housed. Pet owners impacted by the storm but who are not staying in shelters also may pick up pet food at the shelter.

The shelters in Jefferson City and at the Eldon Community Center, 309 E. 2nd St., will remain open as long as needed, officials said.

Those staying at shelters should bring clothing, bedding, toiletries and essential medication. No additional donations of these items are needed at this time.

Anyone who needs to contact the shelter may visit redcross.org/shelter or call 1-800-733-2767. The organization asks those who wish to give to consider financial donations. Donations can be designated online, by phone at 1-800-435-7669 or by texting REDCROSS to 90999.

Tornado-impacted area

The curfew for the tornado-impacted area was lifted Saturday, according to a Jefferson City Police Department news release.

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However, the area bordered by Lafayette Street, South Stadium Boulevard, West Monroe Street and north U.S. 50 is limited to local resident travel only.

Restrictions allow residents the opportunity to return to their homes without interference, the news release notes.

Ellis Boulevard, which was heavily damaged by the storm, reopened Saturday at approximately 11:30 a.m. Drivers should remain cautious of debris on the curbs.

Ameren spokesperson Jeni Hagen said power was restored to Jefferson City by 1 p.m. and Eldon by 2 p.m. Saturday. Two customers were without power as of Saturday afternoon in both cities, according to Ameren's website.

Seventy-nine Cole County customers on the Three Rivers Electric Cooperative system remained without power as of Saturday evening, mainly along U.S. 54 south of Jefferson City, according to TREC's wbesite.

Arrests in tornado area

Two Kansas City men were arrested by Jefferson City police Friday afternoon following an incident in the area impacted by Wednesday's tornado.

A business owner called authorities to the 300 block of Flora Drive for subjects on the property, according to a Jefferson City Police Department news release Saturday.

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Officers identified two motorcycles that had been reported stolen by the Kansas City Police Department and found a stolen .40-caliber handgun, a .45-caliber handgun, and numerous narcotics and tools associated with committing burglary.

The suspects face pending charges for receiving stolen property, possession of narcotics and trespassing, according to the news release.

In a separate incident, Jefferson City resident Carson Bailey, 38, was arrested for stealing and resisting arrest.

At 4 a.m. Saturday, officers were called to the 1600 block of Jefferson Street, according to the JCPD news release. Upon arrival, they determined several Ameren trucks had been entered and were missing tools.

Bailey was hiding in a local hotel then fled on foot, police reported. He was taken into custody after a short chase and charged with stealing and resisting arrest.

Flooding

The Jefferson City area is also dealing with flooding, with potential thunderstorms in the forecast over the next several days.

The Missouri River was at 31.77 feet at 2:45 p.m. Saturday in Jefferson City, almost 2 feet over the levee.

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The river crested at 31.7 feet about 2 p.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

By midday Saturday, officials said the damages will be assessed at a later time. The cleanup efforts will follow.

"I suspect around the airport terminal area there will be about 4 or 5 feet of water," Morasch said.

Jefferson City Memorial Airport will remain closed until further notice. However, employees are traveling by boat or vehicle on the property, he added.

The Capital View Levee, which generally protects North Jefferson City, was breached Friday morning, creating a 30- to 40-foot gap and allowing water to rush in.

"Right now the area that was previously protected by a levee is being filled," Jefferson City Operations Director Britt Smith said.

"The current forecast shows the river is going to stay at that level through Thursday or Friday this week, assuming we don't get any additional rain."

The following highways are closed in Cole County due to flooding, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation:

  • Route W between South Rock Creek in Cole County and Osage Bend Road in Osage County
  • Missouri 179 at Route Z
  • The entrance to Heritage Highway from westbound U.S. 54 southwest of Jefferson City
  • In Jefferson City, the following roads are closed:
  • Eastbound U.S. 50 exit at Lafayette Street
  • Eastbound U.S. 54 exit at Ellis Boulevard
  • Eastbound U.S. 54 exit at Stadium Boulevard
  • Missouri Boulevard between U.S. 50 and McCarty Street
  • Missouri 94 east of the U.S. 63/54 and Missouri 94 interchange

The following Cole County roads are closed, according to the most recent update from the county at 4 p.m. Thursday:

  • North Branch Road
  • Waterford Road
  • Murphys Ford Road
  • Meadowsford Road
  • Engineers Road
  • Railroad Street
  • Water Street
  • East Cole Junction

Flooding has caused road closures in Callaway County as well, including:

  • Missouri 94 east of the U.S. 63/54 and Missouri 94 interchange
  • Missouri 94 at Logan Creek (west of Portland)
  • Missouri 94 between Route PP and Steedman
  • Route C in Mokane
  • U.S. 63 Outer Road in the north Jefferson City area from the U.S. 63 intersection to the U.S. 54/63 and Route W interchange

These closures do no impact U.S. 54/63, which remains open.

Amtrak's Missouri River Runner train service had been scheduled to resume operations today but has been suspended until further notice because of the ongoing flooding. Passenger service has been moved to buses, according to MoDOT.