Waves of powerful thunderstorms swept across Missouri on Wednesday, spawning scattered tornadoes from the Kansas City area to the Bootheel but causing few injuries and only pockets of damage.
Sirens began blaring in the Kansas City metropolitan area about 11:30 a.m. as dark storm clouds made their way north toward the city. At least two weak tornadoes touched down in or near the suburbs of Harrisonville, Mo., and Overland Park, Kan., but there were no reports of injuries or significant damage, meteorologist Julie Adolphson said.
Wailing sirens and dozens of warnings prompted anxiety throughout the day as they brought to mind the monster EF5 tornado that killed at least 125 people in Joplin and destroyed much of that southwestern city on Sunday.
Wednesday's heaviest destruction was reported in Sedalia, 75 miles east of Kansas City, where a tornado damaged several homes and businesses and prompted officials to end the school year several days early because of damage to buses. Fifteen to 25 people suffered minor injuries, officials said, and most were able to get themselves to the city's hospital for treatment.
Sean McCabe was rushing to the basement of his mother's home in Sedalia when the tornado struck and shoved him down the final flight of steps. The 30-year-old suffered scrapes and cuts on his hands, wrists, back and feet. He said neighbors and firefighters helped him get out.
Most of the roof was ripped off the house, which was among the more heavily damaged homes in the area. McCabe, who has a service dog for epilepsy, said both his family's dogs survived, including one found muddy and wet about a block away.
"I saw little debris and then I saw big debris, and I'm like 'OK, let's go,'" McCabe said.
His 61-year-old mother, Priscilla McCabe, said her retirement papers blew away in the storm. She planned to retire from the U.S. Postal in 98 days, after working the agency for 29 years.
Elsewhere in the hard-hit neighborhood, law officers stood on corners and electrical crews worked on power lines. Numerous trees were down, and tarps were covering some houses while others were missing chunks of their roofs. People were cleaning debris and sifting through belongings.
Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond said thoughts of Joplin may have made Sedalia residents more cautious when the sirens sounded and spared the city from more serious injuries.
"Considering the destruction that occurred in Joplin - being that we're in tornado alley and Sedalia has historically been hit by tornadoes in the past - I think people heeded that warning," Bond said. "And so, I think that helped tremendously."
A half-mile-wide tornado cut a path through southeastern Missouri's Carter County, flipping a couple of mobile homes near Grandin and leaving a half-dozen homes near Ellsinore damaged or destroyed, said Larry Sandarciero, the county's emergency management director. Many more homes lost windows and shingles, and acres of trees were flattened.
"But after what they're going through in Joplin, we are blessed to say we have no reported injuries," Sandarciero said. "We're absolutely thrilled."
Multiple funnel clouds dropped from the sky over Poplar Bluff without reaching the ground, and several other tornado warnings were posted for southeastern Missouri and neighboring portions of Illinois and Arkansas into Wednesday evening.
The abundance reports had meteorologists sending out warnings at a frenzied pace.
"Everybody's working as fast and furious as possible," said Beverly Poole, the chief meteorologist at the National Weather Service's office in Paducah, Ky., which covers southeastern Missouri and southern Illinois. "This is just a wild ride."
Poole said of special significance was that in many cases, there were reports of debris falling from the sky as far as 10 miles away from the actual center of the storms, demonstrating "just how severe it is."
"It's just that that debris is being taken into very high levels and being spit right out," she said.
Associated Press writers Chris Blank in Sedalia, David Lieb in Jefferson City, Jim Suhr in St. Louis, and Dana Fields and Maria Fisher in Kansas City contributed to this report.
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