Missouri Tornadoes: Live Updates as Violent Storms Kill 3
The state’s capital took a direct hit.
CARTHAGE, Mo. — A powerful tornado, part of a band of storms that raged through the Plains and the Midwest, struck the Missouri capital late Wednesday, destroying homes and businesses, felling power poles and sparking a vast emergency response as officials faced reports of trapped people and unstable buildings.
The full scale of the devastation was not immediately clear, but the Missouri Department of Public Safety said the damage in part of Jefferson City, the capital, was “extensive.” Shelters opened, and state troopers and local emergency officials were going door-to-door searching for survivors on Thursday morning.
Officials said that roughly three square miles had been especially hard hit, and that flying trees and debris were responsible for some of the at least 20 injuries that had been tallied in the capital.
Jay Banwell, a retired officer with the Army National Guard, said he awoke to alerts on his phone and the sound of whipping wind. When he rolled out of bed to look outside, the glass in his bedroom window “burst with an awful sound,” and the wind sucked his bedroom door closed.
“I could not jar my door loose to get out of my room,” said Mr. Banwell, 56. “I was basically in a room of swirling glass.”
Mike O’Connell, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Public Safety, said “scores of houses and buildings have been extensively damaged.” Officials also came across a Jefferson City car dealership where dozens of cars had been tossed around and flipped over, he said.
Because of debris littering streets and concern that some buildings were in danger of collapse, Mr. O’Connell said nonessential state employees had been asked to stay home on Thursday.
Three people were killed in Golden City.
At least three people were killed in a separate tornado in Golden City, Mo., which is about a two-hour drive southeast of the Kansas City area. In addition to Jefferson City and Golden City, the governor’s office said the hardest-hit areas appeared to be Carl Junction and Eldon.
“We are very thankful we didn’t have any more fatalities than we did,” Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri said Thursday. “But three is too many.”
Mr. Parson, who spoke to reporters in Jefferson City, warned that the death toll could rise.
“We’re just getting to daylight,” he said.
Golden City and Carl Junction are in the southwest corner of the state, near Joplin. The storms on Wednesday hit on the eighth anniversary of a tornado that killed 161 people in Joplin, one of the deadliest and most destructive tornadoes in American history.
[Go inside one of the specialized search-and-rescue task forces that emergency officials can deploy across America.]
Carl Junction, a town of 7,300 people, has been hit before, too. On May 4, 2003, a tornado swept through the center of the town, damaging schools, City Hall, dozens of homes and a few businesses. That storm was part of a multistate tornado outbreak that also wrecked much of the Missouri cities of Pierce City and Stockton.
Wednesday’s tornado hit the Briarbrook section of Carl Junction, a more affluent part of town, built around the Briarbrook Country Club and Golf Course.
‘Shelter now!’ Residents were told to take cover.
The tornadoes in Missouri were among the most violent bursts of severe weather in a week when forecasters feared life-threatening storms. The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., had issued a “high” risk outlook for Oklahoma and Texas on Monday, an unusually grave indication of worrisome conditions.
Although some tornadoes formed on Monday, the worst of the week’s weather seemed to be unleashed Wednesday night and into the early hours of Thursday.
Tornado sirens went off in Jefferson City after 11 p.m. on Wednesday. “Violent tornado confirmed — shelter now!” the National Weather Service office in St. Louis warned the city’s 40,000 residents.
Not long after the storm had roared through Jefferson City, parts of the capital were cloaked in darkness, with the only illumination coming from police lights and cellphones.
Police officers blocked streets, including access to an apartment complex that the authorities feared was unstable.
Wayne Weldon, who is 75 and a double amputee, rode out the storm at home. When it was over, there was a hole in the roof in his guest bedroom, not far from where he took shelter. “I could see the sky,” he said.
A truck driver, David Bell, told CNN that he was driving on the highway with 44,500 pounds of soda in his trailer when he pulled over and his windshield exploded. He said the tornado swept up his truck and slammed it to the ground, trapping him inside.
He used a pocketknife to cut himself out of his seatbelt, he said, and climbed through the front windshield. “I’m grateful to be alive,” he said.
Forecasters warned of more severe weather on Thursday.
The Storm Prediction Center said there was an “enhanced” risk for parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Forecasters also placed parts of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia on the same alert level.
Although meteorologists have refined tornado forecasting to the point of extraordinary precision, the storms can still strike with little notice. The National Weather Service issues tornado warnings if a tornado is spotted visually or on radar, and it broadcasts those warnings through local news outlets, weather radios and the internet, including the @NWSTornado Twitter page. Do not rely on community tornado sirens, which may malfunction or be too far away to be audible.
The link between tornadoes and climate change is uncertain.
Climate change is increasingly linked to many forms of extreme weather. One analysis of extreme weather data found that human-caused climate change was a “significant driver” of 21 out of 27 extreme weather events, including droughts, floods and heat waves.
But tornadoes are different. Limited historical information, especially when compared with temperature data that goes back more than a century, makes it hard for researchers to determine whether the number of tornadoes is increasing, or if it’s just a matter of better reporting.
But a 2016 study in the journal Science found that tornado outbreaks, or tornadoes that occur in a bunch within the same weather system, were becoming more frequent.
Here’s what you can do if a tornado warning is issued for your area.
- Take cover, preferably in a basement or in an interior room without windows.
- If you are driving and cannot reach a sturdy building, try to find shelter in a low-lying area.
- Cover your head. Television forecasters often recommend bicycle helmets.
- If there is damage after a storm, try to wear pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Avoid downed power lines.
John Hacker reported from Carthage and Alan Blinder from Atlanta. Timothy Williams, Sarah Mervosh and Kendra Pierre-Louis contributed reporting from New York, and Austin Ramzy from Hong Kong.
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