At least five people were killed and an unknown number injured after a tornado ripped through an area of southeast Missouri before dawn Wednesday, authorities said.
The tornado caused significant damage in the small rural communities of Glen Allen and Grassy, Bollinger County Police Department Chief Casey A. Graham said in a post on the department’s Facebook account.
At least five people died, Graham wrote, noting that he was withholding the names of the deceased to ensure their families could be notified first.
Teams from various agencies are searching through the rubble of destroyed and damaged homes, authorities said.
Justin Gibbs, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Paducah, Kentucky, said the tornado stayed on the ground for about 15 minutes, traveling an estimated 15-20 miles (24-32 kilometers).
A weather service crew was headed to Bollinger County to gather details about the tornado, but Gibbs said it’s clear “it was a big one. It was a major tornado.”
He noted that tornadoes are especially dangerous when they make landfall late at night or early in the morning, as was the case in this case.
“It’s definitely a nightmare from a warnings standpoint,” Gibbs said. “It’s bad anytime, but it’s especially bad at 3:30 in the morning”.
Bollinger County public administrator Larry Welker said the tornado moved down Route 34 into Glen Allen, a town of just over 100 residents, and he hasn’t been able to inspect the damage firsthand because law enforcement was restricting access to the area.
“They inform me that the situation is quite serious,” he said. He described the area as rural, where most residents are engaged in agriculture, logging or construction.
“There were several trailers there, and I understand people are still missing,” Welker said.
Gov. Mike Parson said he would join emergency personnel on the ground to assess the damage and determine what resources are needed.
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