Washington (AFP) – Rescuers searched door-to-door for survivors Thursday in the central US state of Missouri following a deadly storm that swept through the region, triggering dozens of tornadoes and damaging floods.
Three people were killed in the small town of Golden City, Missouri, officials said, while residents in the state capital Jefferson City were taking stock of damage caused by what the National Weather Service called a “large and destructive” tornado Wednesday night.
“Last night’s tornado activity and the increased flooding has been devastating our state,” Governor Mike Parson said on Twitter.
The weather service estimated that the tornado was an EF-3 on a scale of zero to five, with peak winds of 160 mph (257 km per hour).
The twister destroyed homes, ripped away walls and sheared roofs in Jefferson City. Splintered trees and downed power lines clogged roads.
The full extent and cost of the damage was not immediately clear.
“I didn’t realize how emotional it would be to see the devastation in this town and everything torn up,” resident Eric Powell told KMOV television as he surveyed the aftermath.
“It’s just devastating to see the damage,” he said.
One bit of good news came from the state’s Office of Administration which announced Thursday afternoon that the Missouri State Capitol building was not damaged.
Rescue workers checked door-to-door for survivors. Some 20 people were treated at hospitals overnight, officials said.
Despite the widespread destruction, there were no reports of deaths or additional injuries in Jefferson City.
– More storms expected –
The widespread damage was expected to displace some residents for weeks. The University of Missouri offered housing on its campus.
“As we talk with local and state officials to understand the full scope of the disaster and recovery efforts, we will deploy additional help,” Gary Ward, the university’s operations chief, said in a statement.
More than two dozen tornadoes were reported overnight in Missouri and neighboring Oklahoma. Thousands were left without electricity.
Ameren Missouri, an energy provider, said more than 400 crews were working to restore power in Jefferson City, but that outages could last through the weekend.
The weather service predicted strong and severe storms would continue through the weekend in Missouri and adjacent Illinois, causing “continued river flooding throughout the Missouri and Mississippi River basins.”
Floodwaters rose in Oklahoma, damaging or destroying homes along swollen waterways. There were concerns that some dams could give way and residents were urged to be ready to evacuate.
Several homes were reported destroyed in the small town of Crescent along the Cimarron River, while people living close to a dam on Keystone Lake in the city of Tulsa were encouraged to evacuate or be prepared to do so because the dam could breach.
KJRH television reported loose barges hit a dam on the Arkansas River in Muskogee, Oklahoma. There were no immediate reports of dam failure.