Five people were murdered early Wednesday morning as a tornado ripped across southeastern Missouri. Bollinger County is located roughly 50 miles south of St. Louis, according to Mark Winkler, director of the Cape Girardeau County Office of Disaster Management, who spoke to CBS News.
According to Missouri State Highway Patrol Sergeant Clark Parrott, the tornado hit the rural area between 3:30 and 4 a.m. “The damage is pretty widespread. It’s just heartbreaking to see it,” As he put it. According to Parrott, a joint search-and-rescue effort involving several organizations is already underway.
In order to get to people’s houses, crews have to use chainsaws to clear the area. Drone footage saw rescue workers using flashlights to search the rubble. The highway patrol shared an overhead photo of the destruction online, which showed downed trees and crumbled buildings.
Bollinger County Sheriff Casey A. Graham reported on Facebook that the tornado had caused widespread damage in and around the small rural settlements of Glen Allen and Grassy. The two towns are separated by a hunting preserve.
At Glen Allen, a community of about a hundred people where Charles Collier, 61, owns a storage facility, he noticed a coroner’s van drive past with its lights on. “That was a sad, sad sight — knowing there was bodies in there,” said Collier, who wasn’t entirely relieved when he saw his facility was spared. “I was just numb, thinking about all these other people, what they’re going through.”
According to Glen Allen resident Josh Wells, the storm destroyed half of his roof and pushed in his bedroom wall. He and his son made it to his sister’s house in time, which is fortunate because it has a basement.
“We all ran down and huddled against the wall and my brother-in-law made it down just seconds before we heard the roaring sound of the wind and debris crashing around us,” he said.
His sister’s house was unharmed, but a nearby propane tank had been ruptured, so the neighborhood smelled like gas. Damage estimates from the National Weather Service put the tornado’s widest width at 150 yards and its maximum wind speed at 130 miles per hour. NWS reported that the twister’s route was 22. 3 miles long.
Some mobile homes, according to NWS, were completely wiped out. Meteorologist Justin Gibbs of the National Weather Service in Paducah, Kentucky, declared before the initial assessment that “it was a large tornado.”
When a tornado hits at night or dawn, as this one did, it poses a particularly high risk, he said.
“It’s definitely a nightmare from a warning standpoint,” Gibbs said. “It’s bad anytime, but it’s especially bad at 3:30 in the morning.”
Bollinger County’s public administrator Larry Welker stated that the twister followed Road 34 into Glen Allen and that he has not been able to personally assess the damage because of security measures put in place.
It was “very awful,” he added, according to the information he was receiving. He said it was a rural area where most people worked in agriculture, logging, or construction.
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“There was several trailers there, and I understand that there is still people missing,” Welker said. Several areas still recovering from severe weather last weekend are in the path of storms heading through the Midwest and South on Wednesday.
Up to 40 million people, including those in Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, and Memphis, Tennessee, were in the path of the storms later on Wednesday, according to the Storm Prediction Center. As of late morning, the area from southern Michigan through Tennessee and Kentucky seemed to be in the most danger.
Deadly tornadoes touched down in 11 states as a powerful storm system moved from Arkansas to the South, Midwest, and Northeast over the course of the weekend. The storms were forecast to pass through Little Rock, Arkansas during the morning rush on Wednesday, so schools made the decision to cancel classes, according to CBS station KFVS-TV.
Before dusk on Tuesday, storms hit Illinois, eastern Iowa, and southwest Wisconsin, producing at least two verified tornadoes in Illinois. Authorities reported five injuries and 300 homes without electricity when a tornado hit Fulton County on Tuesday night in central Illinois.
Emergency Services Disaster Agency Director Chris Helle reported that one of the injured was in critical condition. According to Helle, most of the destruction occurred within a 200-mile radius of the town of Bryant, which is located southwest of Chicago.
Helle reported that many houses had been damaged, however firefighters and other first responders were still assessing the situation. He said individuals were wise for taking refuge after hearing warnings. Colona, located in western Illinois, reportedly experienced yet another tornado on Tuesday morning. Some stores were reportedly damaged by the wind, according to local media.
Hail the size of a baseball and winds of up to 90 miles per hour combined to wreak havoc in the Quad Cities region of Iowa and Illinois. Reports of blown-over semi-trailers were also received by the National Weather Service from Lee County, which is located about 95 miles west of Chicago.
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