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Wednesday's tornado warnings create tense atmosphere

Wednesday's tornado warnings create tense atmosphere

May 26th, 2011 in News

Afternoon storm clouds were an ominous sight before a downpour ensued Wednesday afternoon. Tornado warnings and dark skies made local residents nervous, but little damaged was reported after the storm passed.

Photo by Julie Smith

City and county authorities found minimal storm damage, and don't believe that a tornado touched down Wednesday afternoon in Cole County.

The biggest problem was the large amount of rain that fell in a short period of time.

Throughout the county, low-lying areas and low-water crossings were inundated by water. Small streams looked more like roaring rivers after the storm passed.

A tree fell and blocked the road in the 2600 block of Bald Hill Road, and county public works crews were able to remove it. There were also power lines belonging to Three Rivers Electric Cooperative that fell in the 6500 block of Buffalo Road, and utility crews were able to repair the lines.

A Cole County Sheriff's Department deputy's vehicle was blown off the road by high winds in the area of St. Martins exit on U.S. 50, but the deputy was not hurt.

Pea-size hail was reported in many parts of the county, but no damage was reported.

The first warning came just after 1 p.m., and authorities said the county stayed under a tornado warning for one hour and 40 minutes.

"Our sirens sounded for 20 minutes after they are activated," said Jefferson City Police Department Capt. Bob Cynova, who oversees the 911 center. "After that, they shut down for five minutes, and then we have to physically reactivate them."

Cynova said of the three sirens that had been reported to have problems in March, one had been repaired by the time Wednesday's storms hit.

"Of the two that haven't, one is in a field and it's been too muddy for personnel to get back there to repair it," he said. "Most of the 17 sirens we have are 45 years old and have mechanical parts."

Cynova said whenever there is a warning, wherever it may be in the county, the sirens are activated.

Many workers in downtown offices were directed to go to designated shelter areas in their buildings. Also, a group meeting at the Governor's Mansion was taken to the lower level of the building while the storm passed.

Jefferson City public school officials said buses were held in the bus barn and were slightly delayed until the all-clear was given.

All this hit as local emergency response personnel were coming back to Mid-Missouri after spending the first part of the week in Joplin helping with relief efforts there.

Missouri Task Force One, which has three members of the Jefferson City Fire Department as part of the team, returned to their home base in Boone County.

Officials in Cole County said eight emergency personnel from the county and Jefferson City who had gone to Joplin earlier in the week came back Wednesday. However, the county's mobile emergency operations center was left there, along with an operations crew. Another four personnel from Cole County/Jefferson City are heading down to help at the emergency operations center in Joplin, and some members of the Jefferson City Police Department have been requested to come help with law enforcement activities in Joplin.

Reporter Bob Watson contributed to this report.