A violent tornado lashed through Missouri and state capital Jefferson City on the evening of May 22 and caught sleeping residents off guard.
The "Wedge Tornado" was observed over the city around 11:45 p.m. on Wednesday, moving at 40 miles per hour and sending debris 13,000 feet into the air, according to the National Weather Service. A wedge tornado looks wider than the distance from the ground to an ambient cloud base. Many known "wedge" tornadoes have also been violent, producing F4 to F5 damage on the Fujita scale.
The powerful tornado is part of a deadly spring storm system that has raged through the Plains and the Midwest and caused heavy rains, flash floods, and hails. The extreme weather also resulted in at least 130 tornadoes in five days in the central United States.
Tornadoes' Trail Of Damages And Casualties
The force of the tornado that felt like an earthquake has left 20 people injured, damaged buildings, and felled posts. In Golden City, three people were killed. The fatalities were identified as Kenneth Harris, 86, and his wife, Opal, 83, and Betty Berg, 56. Among other hard-hit areas were Carl Junction and Eldon.
Jefferson City police lieutenant David Williams described the situation as "chaotic." The tornado's widespread damage has reached a 3-mile swath of the city that has a population of over 40,000. More than 21,000 people were also affected by power outages while more than 330 roads in Missouri were closed due to severe flooding.
"We are very thankful we didn't have any more fatalities than we did," said Mike Parson, Missouri's governor.
Devastation Across Plains And Midwest
The unusually powerful spring storms have spawned successive tornadoes and extreme weather events in the previous days. These storms are also causing heavy rains and flooding that are forcing residents to evacuate.
Some 600 residents of Webber Falls in Oklahoma were ordered to leave their homes as the waters from the Arkansas river continued to rise. Sand Springs in Tulsa with more than 19,000 residents and Fort Gibson with over 4,000 residents were also encouraged to evacuate following threats from the rising river.
"This is a life-threatening situation," Webber Falls officials posted on the town's Facebook page.
Late Spring Storms And Extreme Weather Events
According to AccuWeather, the threats of severe weather will return to the Plains on May 23, partially as a result of a large and persistent dip in the jet stream across the western United States.
"Each storm system that dives through the West and Four Corners region has nowhere to go but into the southern and central Plains. When these systems interact with moisture and humidity being drawn northward from the Gulf of Mexico, the ingredients come together for severe weather outbreaks," the weather news agency declared.
Severe thunderstorms triggered by the said storm system will bring damaging wind gusts, flooding downpours, and incidents of large hail. Several tornadoes are also possible.