JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Tornadoes hit across southwest Missouri and the state capital late Wednesday evening, May 23. Over the last 24 hours, Jefferson City residents have come together during this time of community-wide damage and loss.
The storm began around 9:30 p.m., causing damage in Carl Junction and Golden City, where three deaths were reported. The storm then traveled north, touching down in Eldon, before reaching Jefferson City.
The tornado touched down in Jefferson City around 11:45 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. The National Weather Service in St. Louis issued a tornado warning at 11:08 p.m. At 11:43 p.m. a tornado emergency was issued for the area.
Just an hour after the tornado’s presence, reports of damages across the city began to file in. Upon assessment, the tornado was characterized with causing EF-3 damage, indicating 160 mph winds, according to the National Weather Service. For the most part, the tornado followed U.S. Highway 54 northwest through the city, hitting and damaging a new Special Olympics building, two car dealerships, Jefferson City High School Adkins Stadium, Simonsen 9th Grade Center and much more.
The Missouri state track and field championships were scheduled to be hosted at Adkins Stadium as usual, but due to damages the Missouri State High School Athletic Association moved the event location.
No deaths have been reported in Jefferson City.
Major damage in residential areas occurred on Ellis Boulevard and Tanner Bridge Road. The Hawthorne Park Apartment Complex at 505 Ellis Boulevard. was one of the first locations to report extreme damage, with some residents trapped under rubble. Nineteen-year-old Mikaela Pierson, a resident of the apartment complex, described the experience as a bad scene from a movie.
“The tornado went right over us, and it sounded like a roller coaster that made our ears feel pressurized,” Pierson said.
Along with her boyfriend and dog, Pierson took shelter in a closet for 15 minutes before exiting to survey the damage.
“There was glass everywhere — almost the whole front of our apartment was damaged, and the top two (apartments) were completely demolished,” Pierson said. “When leaving, we saw so much debris and lots of insulation. The ground was almost squishy, just to get an idea of how much there was on the ground.”
Pierson and her boyfriend are just two of the many residents impacted by the tornado’s damage. While Ellis Boulevard was closed to traffic, residents walked back to their apartments throughout Thursday, collecting any salvageable personal items. Many residents returned to their apartments Thursday to find missing roofs, walls, doors and windows.
The three Golden City residents who died in the storm were identified as Kenneth G. Harris, 86, Opal P. Harris, 83, and Betty Berg, 56, died. Berg’s husband, Mark, 56, was sent to Freeman Hospital in Joplin with serious injuries.
The American Red Cross has established a shelter for citizens in Jefferson City at Thomas Jefferson Middle School 1201 Fairgrounds Road and is welcoming anyone who needs a place to eat or sleep. Many others have reached out, opening their businesses and homes to those in the community who need a place to stay.
Individuals interested in volunteering for the Red Cross should visit www.redcross.org/volunteer. For more information on community-wide disaster relief volunteer work visit www.unitedwaycemo.org/volunteer.