A “catastrophic” and “violent” tornado has hit the centre of Missouri, leaving a wave of destruction and as people were left trapped in their homes.
A “violent tornado” touched down in Jefferson City, Missouri, causing heavy damage as it tore through neighbourhoods.
The National Weather Service reports that a “confirmed large and destructive tornado” was observed over Jefferson City at 11.43pm Wednesday local time, moving northeast at 64km/h. The capital city has a population of about 40,000 and is located 209 kilometres west of St. Louis.
Jefferson City Police Lt. David Williams said they have received multiple calls of people being trapped in their homes.
“It’s a chaotic situation right now,” Williams said.
“We need people who are not affected to stay out of those areas.”
Williams spoke from the Cole County Sheriff’s office, where debris such as insulation, roofing shingles and metal pieces lay on the ground outside the front doors.
Power outages are being reported in parts of the city.
“More dangerous severe weather — tornadoes and flash flooding — expected overnight,” according to a tweet from Missouri Public Safety.
The National Weather Service said it had received 22 reports of tornadoes by late Wednesday evening, although some of those could be duplicate reporting of the same twister.
In Jefferson City, the state capital, there is extensive damage along Ellis Boulevard near Highway 54. Power lines are down. Traffic is being diverted as @MSHPTrooperGHQ & local first responders go door-to-door. Consider all power lines live.
Stay out of areas with damage. #MoWxpic.twitter.com/cPWQi1tzCJ
The Arkansas River town of Webbers Falls, Oklahoma, was one such town. Town officials ordered a mandatory evacuation Wednesday afternoon because of the river’s rising level.
But Wednesday evening, a posting on the town’s official Facebook page sounded the alarm about the runaway barges for its 600 residents: “Evacuate Webbers Falls immediately. The barges are loose and has the potential to hit the lock and dam 16. If the dam breaks, it will be catastrophic!! Leave now!!”
There was no word by midnight Wednesday where the barges were on the river, but local television stations showing live video of the river and the lock and dam said they had not yet arrived.
The Arkansas River was approaching historic highs, while the already high Missouri and Mississippi Rivers were again rising after a multi-day stretch of storms that produced dozens of tornadoes. Forecasters predicted parts of Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas could see more severe weather on Thursday.
Deaths from this week’s storms include a 74-year-old woman found early Wednesday morning in Iowa. Officials there say she was killed by a possible tornado that damaged a farmstead in Adair County. Missouri authorities said heavy rain was a contributing factor in the deaths of two people in a traffic accident Tuesday near Springfield.
A fourth weather-related death may have occurred in Oklahoma, where the Highway Patrol said a woman apparently drowned after driving around a barricade Tuesday near Perkins, about 72 kilometres northeast of Oklahoma City.
The unidentified woman’s body was sent to the state medical examiner’s office to confirm the cause of death.
Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain said she isn’t yet listed as what would be the state’s first storm-related death.