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story.lead_photo.caption Rebecca Martin/News Tribune Janet Smyer looks at toppled furniture in the family room of her home on Heritage Highway on Thursday, May 23, 2019, after a tornado hit the area south of Jefferson City late Wednesday.

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Wednesday night's tornado bounced its way up U.S. 54, hitting several Cole County neighborhoods on its way from Eldon to Jefferson City.

Along Heritage Highway on Thursday, broken trees bowed north toward one major center of damage midway between the road's two intersections with U.S. 54 as area residents sifted through debris with help from friends and family.

At the leveled site of RC Race Barn, Curtis Trippensee worked Thursday afternoon to clear a path to the piled remains of the haven for remote-controlled race car drivers he bought early last year.

"It's really devastating," he said. "I'm still having a hard time getting a hold of it."

Trippensee had already worked in the early morning hours Thursday to clear debris from the road.

"The road was impassable last night," he said. "I just tried to help out where I could so that emergency vehicles could get through if they needed to."

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Trippensee and a crowd of racers had been at the RC Race Barn until about 20 minutes before the tornado hit.

"It could have been a lot worse," he said. "Usually we have a bigger crowd on Wednesdays, and thank goodness it was a small crowd last night and they got done early, otherwise there would have been people here."

Trippensee, who also owns Meadow Ridge Trains and Hobbies in Taos, hopes to rebuild the RC Race Barn once insurance claims have gone through.

Right across Heritage Highway from the ruins of the RC Race Barn, Paul and Janet Smyer's stone home since Jan. 1, 1999, still stood tall — not the case for their carport or for many homes in the neighboring Twin Bridges Mobile Home Village.

"It picks and chooses," Paul said of the tornado.

His 1970 Nova race car lay in pieces down the street, while four or five hummingbirds fluttered around a feeder on the porch that hadn't moved — what Janet called her "one bit of normalcy in a sea of chaos."

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The Smyers' home wasn't untouched. Janet pointed to a toppled china cabinet that had held now-ruined antiques in the family room where the tornado's winds broke windows and tore apart the ceiling.

The only contents of the china cabinet not damaged was a small wooden box holding the cremains of a friend who died last year.

"We managed to save him," Janet said. "It was just sitting right there. I went and turned the cabinet a little bit, and it just kind of plopped to the front — so it was meant to be."

The Smyers have long extended an invitation to residents of the mobile home park to take shelter in their basement during bad weather, and six of them did Wednesday night, Paul said.

"I guess overall we were lucky because we're all still here," Janet said.

The tornado also made its way to the Rustic Oaks subdivision off Monticello Road on the west side of U.S. 54, where trees were twisted and snapped throughout the neighborhoods, some which fell on homes and property, and many which had to be cleared from the roads to restore access early Thursday morning.

Continuing its path along the highway into Jefferson City, the storm also toppled semi-trucks, tore up roofs at businesses including Tractor Supply and brought near-complete damage to Donnie Braun & Sons Auto Repair and Braun Storage on Renns Lake Road just west of U.S. 54.

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