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story.lead_photo.caption Residents observe damaged cars and homes Thursday after a tornado caused severe damage along both sides of Capitol Avenue. The National Weather Service ruled Wednesday's tornado as an EF-3 with peak winds reaching 160 mph. Photo by Sally Ince / News Tribune.

On the night of the eight-year anniversary of a deadly tornado that devastated Joplin, another twister hammered a Missouri city — this time, it was the state's Capital City.

And, just like what happened after the Joplin tragedy, the pledges of support to help with the recovery have local officials confident Jefferson City will rebound.

The first indications of the severe weather entered the area around 11:10 p.m. Wednesday, according to emergency officials. About 30 minutes later, the Jefferson City 911 Center began receiving reports of damage.

Authorities later determined the storms came up from Eldon, itself the victim of a tornado Wednesday, traveled up Missouri 17 at the southern end of Cole County and eventually churned into Jefferson City. The tornado left a 3-mile path of destruction from Christy Drive toward the Missouri River.

By Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service in St. Louis estimated the tornado hit at 11:45 p.m. Wednesday and remained on the ground for several minutes before moving out of the city. A damage survey team rated the tornado an EF-3, indicative of top winds of 160 mph.

Every business from the intersection of Ellis Boulevard and Christy Drive and going south on Christy suffered major damage such as roofs torn off, parts of walls collapsing, windows blown out, and trees and power poles snapped off.

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The businesses affected included Burger King, Best Western Inn, Capital Bowl and Riley Chevrolet. The Special Olympics Missouri Training for Life facility also was hit with part of its roof blown off.

Back on Ellis Boulevard, Break Time and Sonic Drive-In suffered severe structural damage. To allow emergency crews to get through the street in that area, front loaders and other heavy equipment were brought in to remove debris from the roads.

The Hawthorne Park Apartments on Ellis Boulevard also took a hit, as did the Firley YMCA, which lost a wall.

Many parts of the Old Munichburg area were also impacted, including homes on Woodlawn Avenue and Hickory Street. Trees were blown into homes, and in some cases, whole roofs were lifted off.

In the early morning hours Thursday, Jefferson City Police Spokesman Lt. David Williams said the first priority was to make sure residents were safe, so they were going to door to door to check at homes in the tornado's path. Many times that was on foot because debris left by the storm made streets impassable.

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

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

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By mid-day Thursday, Williams reported only 24-25 Cole County residents had sought treatment; there had been no fatalities, and no missing persons were reported.

"It's a miracle that we didn't lose anybody," said Cole County Sheriff John Wheeler, whose deputies along with Cole County Fire Protection District and Cole County Public Works crews were out dealing with damage at Twin Bridges Mobile Home Village as well as heavy property damage on Beck Road and Heritage Highway.

Through the morning hours, the calls began to pour in offering help for residents as well as first responders. Heavy equipment owners either drove their machinery to scenes or called authorities to ask where they should go.

All personnel for all local emergency agencies were called into service, but to augment their capabilities, agencies such as the Columbia, University of Missouri, Lincoln University and Holts Summit police departments, along with the Missouri Highway Patrol, sent officers to help. The Jefferson City Fire Department received help from the Holts Summit Fire Department.

As daylight broke Thursday, Williams said they had run into some residents who actually slept through the storm.

"They were glad to see us and glad they made it through unharmed," Williams said.

Back at the Hawthorne Park Apartments, James Rodgers and his family returned to see what damage had been done to their residence.

"Some of us had been through a tornado before, so we got out and went to another place, " he said.

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Rodgers himself had never been through a tornado, so it was shocking to see the devastation.

"The main thing is we're all together, " he said.

With the help of the Red Cross, three shelters for those displaced were set up with the city. Around 100 people had taken advantage of the service.

Ameren Missouri President Michael Moehn said the utility had stabilized natural gas situations in Jefferson City with a mobile command center.

The company had around 2,000 electric customers affected in Jefferson City.

"We should have full service back to Jefferson City probably by Saturday, " Moehn said. "On a scale of 1-10, it's probably around a 10 for damage."

Efforts to restore electricity to Three Rivers Electric Cooperative members in Cole and Miller counties continued throughout the day. At one time, more than 6,700 members were without power, officials said.

A majority of the damage included broken poles, downed lines and trees in the right-of-way. Thee Rivers assistant manager Thayne Barton said early estimates showed 100 broken poles with more expected as additional assessments were completed. Replacing poles, preparing the new poles and restringing and/or splicing the line for so many poles is time-consuming, Barton said, adding the extremely saturated ground is compounding the problem.

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Crews from Macon Electric Cooperative in Macon, Crawford Electric Cooperative in Bourbon and Central Electric Power Cooperative in Jefferson City are providing mutual aid to TREC crews. Contractors are clearing rights-of-way, while others are using special pole-setting equipment on tracks to access areas unsuitable for standard digging trucks.

Gov. Mike Parson and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe said they were pledging all the help the city would need from the state and they were getting calls from outside the state from companies and agencies also pledging help.

Along with the pledges of help from large groups and agencies, the need to help their neighbors could be seen on the individual level.

While crews were clearing debris from properties along Christy Drive, Samantha Mellon, a University of Missouri student from Hannibal, saw some of the early reports of damage in Jefferson City and drove down from Columbia to see if she could help.

"I went to Walmart and got as much bottled water as I could, along with fruit and granola bars," she said. "I wasn't sure where I would be able to help, but I knew I wanted to try."

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