Get AccuWeather alerts right in your browser!
Enable Notifications
Rip Current Statement
...HIGH RIP CURRENT RISK NOW IN EFFECT ...

Violent tornadoes tear across Missouri, killing 3 and leaving extensive damage

By Brett Rathbun, AccuWeather meteorologist
By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer
By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
May 24, 2019, 2:47:14 AM EDT


Government officials and residents in Missouri began picking up the pieces and assessing the damage on Thursday after a deadly tornado outbreak in the late-night hours ravaged several parts of the state including the capital, Jefferson City.

A large tornado tore through Jefferson City late Wednesday night around 11:45 p.m CDT. The National Weather Service in St. Louis issued a tornado emergency for the area after a 'violent tornado' was confirmed on the ground. First responders worked through the night to begin search and rescue efforts for people who were trapped in collapsed buildings.

Jefferson City Police have confirmed at least 20 citizens were transported to local hospitals.

The Jefferson City tornado was given a preliminary rating of EF3 on Thursday afternoon, with a peak wind speed of 160 mph. The tornado was on the ground for nearly 20 miles.

Three people were killed in Golden City, Missouri, after a tornado moved across the region Wednesday evening. A tornadic thunderstorm tracked from Ottawa County, Oklahoma, into Bexter Springs and Galena, Kansas, and then into Carl Junction, Oronogo and Golden City, Missouri.

Preliminary damage surveys were done on these tornadoes from the National Weather Service in Springfield, Missouri. The Golden City and Carl Junction tornadoes were rated EF3 with maximum winds near 140 mph. The Oronogo tornado was rated an EF0.

The victims' identities were released later Thursday morning. Missouri Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. John Lueckenhoff told the Associated Press that the bodies of 86-year-old Kenneth Harris and his 83-year-old wife, Opal, were killed in the storm. Their bodies were reportedly found about 200 yards from their home.

Just west of Golden City, 56-year-old Betty Berg was killed when her mobile home was destroyed. Her husband, Mark, was seriously injured.

Golden City and Jefferson City are about three hours apart. Golden City is located in southwestern Missouri, while Jefferson City is located farther north in the central part of the state.

Wednesday's round of damaging thunderstorms erupted over the central United States Wednesday night into Thursday, right on the heels of a severe weather outbreak across the region earlier this week.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Iesha McClain looks through her destroyed home Thursday, May 23, 2019 after a tornado tore though Jefferson City, Mo. late Wednesday.

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

This aerial image shows severe storm damage in Jefferson City, Mo., Thursday, May 23, 2019, after a tornado hit overnight.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Carey Riley looks over damaged cars at a Toyota dealership he owns with his two brothers Thursday, May 23, 2019 after a tornado tore though Jefferson City, Mo. late Wednesday.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

A worker walks past tornado-damaged Toyotas at a dealership in Jefferson City, Mo., Thursday, May 23, 2019, after a tornado tore though late Wednesday.

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

In this aerial photograph, the Missouri Capitol is seen Thursday, May 23, 2019, in Jefferson City, Mo. Material covering part of the exterior of the building as it undergoes a renovation was damaged during a strong storm overnight.

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

This aerial image shows severe storm damage in Jefferson City, Mo., Thursday, May 23, 2019, after a tornado hit overnight.

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Severe storm damage is seen in Jefferson City, Mo., Thursday, May 23, 2019, after a tornado hit overnight.

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

A tornado tore apart buildings in Missouri's capital city as part of an overnight outbreak of severe weather across the state.

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Severe storm damage is seen in an aerial photo in Jefferson City, Mo., Thursday, May 23, 2019, after a tornado hit overnight.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Tavaris McClain, left, and Tyree Thompson clear debris to free McClain's mother's car outside her destroyed home Thursday, May 23, 2019 after a tornado tore though Jefferson City, Mo. late Wednesday.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Jessica Rodgers and a neighbor, Ray Arellana, carry a stroller carrying Rodgers' sister Sophia Rodgers over downed power lines in Jefferson City, Missouri, Thursday, May 23, 2019.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

A woman surveys damage Thursday, May 23, 2019 after a tornado tore though Jefferson City, Mo. late Wednesday, May 22, 2019.

(DroneBase via AP)

This aerial image shows severe storm damage in Jefferson City, Mo., Thursday, May 23, 2019, after a tornado hit overnight.

(Chris Higgins via AP)

This still image taken from video provided by Chris Higgins shows a tornado in Carl Junction, Missouri, on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. The tornado caused damage in the town about 4 miles (6.44 kilometers) north of the Joplin Airport.

(Twitter photo/ Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin)

"Those winds were strong. But we are stronger!" Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin said in a tweet on Thursday night.

(Twitter photo/ Missouri Gov. Mike Parson)

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson traveled to Carl Junction on Thursday, where dozens of homes were damaged from the storm. Parson met with some of the local residents in the Briarbrook subdivision to witness the destruction.

(AP Photo/David Lieb)

A car is trapped under the fallen metal roof of the Break Time gas station and convenience store in tornado-hit Jefferson City, Missouri, Thursday, May 23, 2019.

(AP Photo/David A. Lieb)

The sign for the Hidden Oaks apartment complex in Jefferson City, Missouri, stands bent Thursday, May 23, 2019, from a tornado in front of a tree that was ripped apart.

(Shayla Brooks via AP)

This still image taken from video provided by Shayla Brooks shows a tornado on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, in Carl Junction, Missouri.

(AP Photo/Stechshultsy)

This image posted on the Twitter account of Stechshultsy shows tornado-hit Jefferson City, Missouri, on Thursday, May 23, 2019. The NWS confirmed a large destructive tornado caused heavy damage.

(AP Photo/David Lieb)

A destroyed sign for a car wash is seen in tornado-hit Jefferson City, Missouri, Thursday, May 23, 2019, with a heavily damaged gas station in the background.

(Twitter photo/@MoPublicSafety)

This images shows the damaged Missouri Division of Employment Security Office in Jefferson City.

(Twitter photo/@MoPublicSafety)

Debris is scattered across Jackson and Dunklin Streets in Jefferson City, Missouri, on Thursday, May 23. Public safety officials are urging residents to allow crews room to clean up the tornado's aftermath.

(AP Photo/David A. Lieb)

Plastic chairs lie in the road and metal from a damaged gas station roof is twisted around a downed power line in Jefferson City, Missouri, on Thursday, May 23, 2019, after a large tornado ripped through the state's capital.

(Twitter photo/@MoPublicSafety)

The Missouri Department of Public Safety tweeted out images of extensive damage in Jefferson City, the state capital, including signs ripped from their posts along Ellis Boulevard near Highway 54.

(Twitter photo/@MoPublicSafety)

The Missouri Department of Public Safety tweeted images of extensive damage in Jefferson City, including downed power lines along Ellis Boulevard near Highway 54.

(Twitter photo/@MSHPTrooperF)

This image from the Missouri State Highway Patrol shows downed trees and power lines after a tornado struck Jefferson City, Missouri, Wednesday night.

(AP Photo/David Lieb)

A wall collapsed in Jefferson City, Missouri, on Thursday May 23, 2019 after a violent tornado struck the area.

(Twitter photo/@MSHPTrooperF)

This is one of several vehicles damaged on or near WB BUS 54 near Eldon, Missouri, on Wednesday evening.

(Twitter/@FirstLadyTeresa)

The tornado that tore through Missouri late Wednesday night destroyed trees and homes.

(Twitter/@FirstLadyTeresa)

The tornado that hit Missouri Wednesday night tore through Eldon, Missouri, downing power lines, snapping trees and destroying houses.

(Twitter/@FirstLadyTeresa)

The roof of this building was torn from it during the tornado that hit Missouri on Wednesday night.

(Twitter/@FirstLadyTeresa)

Residents of Eldon, Missouri clean up the damage left by the tornado that hit on Wednesday night.

Twitter/Master Sergeant Casey Utterback

The tornado that struck Jefferson City on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, tracked close to the Missouri State Highway Patrol's Law Enforcement Academy.

(Twitter/@MSHPTrooperGHQ)

The tornado that struck Jefferson City, Missouri on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, tore off the roof of this home and caused other major structural damage.

(Twitter/@MSHPTrooperGHQ)

Trees and power lines were torn from the ground and downed during the tornado that hit Jefferson City on Wednesday, May 22, 2019.

(Twitter/@MSHPTrooperGHQ)

These trees were uprooted and snapped in Jefferson City, Missouri by the tornado that hit late Wednesday night on May 22, 2019.

(Twitter/@MSHPTrooperGHQ)

The tornado that hit Jefferson City on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, not only downed power lines, but flipped cars, as seen in the background of this photo.

Twitter/@MSHPTrooperC

The tornado that struck Jefferson City on Wednesday, May 22 launched this piece of metal into the side of a building.

(Twitter/@MSHPTrooperC)

Parts of Jefferson City, Missouri lie in pieces after the devastating tornado that struck on Wednesday, May 22, 2019.

(Twitter/@MSHPTrooperC)

An battered semi lies on its side after the tornado that hit Jefferson City, Missouri on Wednesday, May 22, 2019.

(Twitter/@MSHPTrooperC)

A metal sheet is wrapped around a storm-battered car after the tornado that hit Jefferson City, Missouri on Wednesday, May 22, 2019.

(Twitter/@MissouriOA)

The tornado that hit Jefferson City, Missouri on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, didn't spare the Employment Security Building.

(Twitter/@ChristiesPics)

The flooding occurring at Harry S Truman Dam grew worse after the storm blew through on Wednesday, May 22, 2019.


Missouri Gov. Mike Parson confirmed damage to state buildings and that power was out in some areas. Parson had previously declared a state of emergency earlier this week due to the repeated rounds of severe weather and the ongoing flood threat.

"Across the state, Missouri’s first responders once again responded quickly and with strong coordination 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," Parson said in a Thursday morning press conference.

The governor took an aerial tour of the tornado damage and ongoing flooding Thursday morning which he said has been "devastating" the state.


President Donald Trump issued condolences to those in the affected regions in a tweet Thursday.

"Our hearts go out to the people of Missouri as they woke up to assess the damage from storms. You are strong and resilient, and we are here to assist," Trump tweeted.

Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin issued an updated declaration of emergency that was executed on May 22 and related to the flooding of the Missouri River and its tributaries.

On Thursday, Tergin issued a curfew in Jefferson City to last until 5 a.m. Friday, as damage assessment continues.

Jefferson City curfew area

The curfew set for Jefferson City on May 23, 2019 extends from Lafayette Street to Madison Street, and it will last from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. (City of Jefferson)


Residents interviewed in the aftermath of the storms described the frightening ordeal as they surveyed damage. "I thought we were dead," resident Larry Jett, of Jefferson City, told Martin Augustine a reporter with KMBC. Jett told Augustine that he and his mother were "picked up off the floor and thrown back down."


Another Jefferson City resident told KMOV that the tornado "felt like an earthquake."

The Red Cross said it has opened a shelter in Jefferson City at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

Among the agencies responding to the tornado were the Jefferson City Fire Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Missouri Task Force 1, a specialized urban search and rescue team.

In addition to tornadoes, thunderstorms through Wednesday night brought all modes of severe weather, including flash flooding, destructive hail larger than golf balls and wind gusts over 70 mph.

After the heavy downpours, river levels rose and threatened to breach levees, at least four of which were overwhelmed by Thursday afternoon at Brunswick, DeWitt, Mi-De and Linneman-Weekly Levees. The Ray-Carroll Levee also had an overtopping.

At Harry S Truman Dam, the already problematic flooding worsened after the storms blew through. In one case, the creeping floodwaters rose to the bottom of the bridge of a nearby park's playground.

Threatening storms tracked near the Joplin, Missouri, area, but ultimately didn't leave any extensive damage behind in the city. For Joplin, the risk of damaging storms and tornadoes came on the anniversary of the devastating EF5 that tore through the city in 2011.

Since Monday, there have been nearly 130 tornado reports across the Central states and the threat will continue through Friday. At least 45 were reported on Wednesday. Some of these reports can be duplicates of the same tornado.

The three fatalities in Missouri bring the death toll of the severe weather outbreak up to seven. 

Two people were killed in a traffic accident near Springfield, Missouri, on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. The Missouri Highway Patrol told the AP that heavy rain was a contributing factor in the crash. One fatality was reported in Perkins, Oklahoma, about 45 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, when a motorist drowned on Tuesday after driving around a high water warning barricade and into a flooded roadway, according to emergency management officials.

A tornado-related death was reported in Adair, Iowa, after severe storms ripped through the area early Wednesday. The Adair County Sheriff's office told the AP that emergency responders recovered the body of 74-year-old Linda Brownlee, while 78-year-old Harold Brownlee was flown to a hospital to be treated for injuries. The Adair/Guthrie County Emergency Manager said one building was destroyed and two to three outbuildings were damaged on the farm, located just south of Interstate 80.

RELATED:
The difference between tornado watches and warnings
Storm-weary residents of Plains to face more violent weather into Memorial Day weekend
Memorial Day outlook: Storms to threaten central, western US; Record heat to grip South
Real-time severe weather reports from May 22-23, 2019

Additional rounds of severe thunderstorms are in the forecast for the central U.S. through Saturday. This includes a similar area to Wednesday’s and Thursday's storms, extending from Texas to Illinois.

The first tornado on Wednesday was confirmed near Cromwell, Oklahoma, located east of Oklahoma City. Several homes were destroyed in Jay, Oklahoma, after a tornado touched down, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and Department of Public Safety. No injuries were reported.

Some parts of the southern Plains have received more than a month’s worth of rain since the weekend. Deadly storms that ripped across Oklahoma and neighboring states earlier this week sparked dozens of reported tornadoes and on Wednesday resulted in devastating floods throughout parts of Oklahoma. Rain from this new round of thunderstorms could cause floodwaters to expand even further, inundating more roads and communities.

“Because multiple storms may move repeatedly over the same locations late this week, flooding will again be a major concern. Some communities may receive another 3 to 6 inches of rain on top of what already fell early this week,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Kyle Elliott said.

Download the free AccuWeather app to keep up to date on the latest severe weather alerts. Keep checking back for updates on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.

Report a Typo

Comments

Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.

More Weather News