3 dead in Missouri as tornado hits state capital
Forecasters predict parts of Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas could see more severe weather
A tornado touched down in Jefferson City as severe weather swept across Missouri overnight, killing three people and leaving others trapped in the wreckage of their homes.
The U.S. National Weather Service reported a "confirmed large and destructive tornado" was observed over Jefferson City at 11:43 p.m. local time Wednesday, moving northeast at 64 km/h. The capital city is 210 kilometres west of St. Louis.
"Across the state, Missouri's first responders once again responded quickly and with strong co-ordination as much of the state dealt with extremely dangerous conditions that left people injured, trapped in homes, and tragically led to the death of three people," Gov. Mike Parson said.
"I want our responders and all the neighbours who acted selflessly to help their neighbours to know how much their heroic efforts are appreciated by all Missourians."
Missouri Public Safety confirmed in a tweet that three people were killed in the Golden City area of Barton County, and several injured in the Carl Junction area of Jasper County.
Watch this video of a tornado in Carl Junction, Mo., that was posted on social media on Wednesday:
The damage spanned about a five-kilometre area in the state capital, Jefferson City police Lt. David Williams said. About 20 people were rescued by emergency personnel, and although there were no reports of missing people, authorities planned to make door-to-door checks on Thursday, he said.
"It's a chaotic situation right now," Williams said.
He spoke from the Cole County Sheriff's office, where debris including insulation, roofing shingles and metal pieces lay on the ground outside the front doors. Authorities were discouraging people from beginning cleanup efforts until power is safely restored.
Area hospitals did not see an immediate influx of patients with injuries but set up command centres in case the need arises.
"We have four patients with minor injuries," said Jessica Royston, spokesperson at St. Mary's Health Centre.
Power outages were being reported in parts of the city. Missouri Public Safety tweeted that there was a possibility of more tornadoes and flash flooding.
.<a href="https://twitter.com/MSHPTrooperD?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MSHPTrooperD</a> troopers assisting local 1st responders in Golden City area of Barton Co with door-to-door searches following suspected tornado strike. More dangerous severe weather - tornadoes and flash flooding - expected overnight. Follow your local <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MoWx?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MoWx</a> Take cover as needed!—@MoPublicSafety
Austin Thomson, 25, was in the laundry room of his apartment complex to do his wash and noticed that the wind started picking up. He saw sheets of rain coming down and a flagpole bend and then slam to the ground. The windows broke and he dove behind the washers and dryers.
After it calmed down, he walked outside to check the damage.
"There's basically one building that's basically one story now. Every building there is two stories."
The National Weather Service said it had received 22 reports of tornadoes by late Wednesday evening, although some of those could be duplicate reporting of the same twister.
One tornado skirted just a few kilometres north of Joplin, Mo., on the eighth anniversary of a catastrophic tornado that killed 161 people in the city. That tornado caused some damage in the town of Carl Junction, about six kilometres north of the Joplin airport.
Storms heading east
The severe weather was expected to continue Thursday as the storms head east. Forecasters at the Storm Prediction Centre say parts of the Ohio Valley and the Mid-Atlantic could see tornadoes, large hail and strong winds. Forecasters say the area most at risk for bad weather Thursday includes Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
Storms and torrential rains have ravaged the Midwest, from Texas through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Illinois.
Two barges broke loose and floated swiftly down the swollen Arkansas River in eastern Oklahoma, spreading alarm downstream as they threatened to hit a dam. A posting on the official Facebook page of the river town of Webbers Falls, Okla., said the runaway barges posed a dire threat to its 600 residents.
Authorities located the barges Thursday morning, stuck on rocks in the swollen river. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says the barges were still tied together and crews were working to secure them.
Still, the Interstate 40 bridge and a state highway bridge remain closed over the Arkansas River at Webbers Falls as a precaution, according to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. Over Memorial Day weekend in 2002, a barge struck the Interstate 40 bridge pier at Webbers Falls, causing part of the bridge to collapse into the Arkansas River. Fourteen people died after their vehicles plunged into the water.
Deaths from this week's storms include a 74-year-old woman found early Wednesday morning in Iowa. Officials there say she was killed by a possible tornado that damaged a farmstead in Adair County.
Missouri authorities said heavy rain was a contributing factor in the deaths of two people in a traffic accident Tuesday near Springfield.
A fourth weather-related death occurred in Oklahoma, where the Highway Patrol said a woman apparently drowned after driving around a barricade Tuesday near Perkins, about 72 kilometres northeast of Oklahoma City. The unidentified woman's body was sent to the state medical examiner's office, which confirmed Wednesday that the death was attributed to the flooding.