This photo provided by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and taken with a drone as it surveys the damage from a tornado that hit southeast Missouri early Wednesday, April 5, 2023. The tornado caused widespread destruction and killed and injured multiple people.
Missouri State Highway Patrol | AP
A “significant” tornado tore through southeastern Missouri on Wednesday morning, killing multiple people and leaving widespread destruction as authorities warned of more twisters.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol sent troopers to Bollinger County to assist “multiple local agencies in search and recovery efforts after a tornado” in the Glen Allen area, the agency said in a statement.
Gov. Mike Parson posted an aerial picture of the devastation in Bollinger County, saying that “fatalities have been confirmed and others have been injured.”
The tornado traversed rural Bollinger County, south of St. Louis, at a speed of about 45 mph, for about 15 minutes sometime between 3:30 a.m. and 4 a.m. CT, National Weather Service meteorologist David Witten said.
“It was significant given how much damage it caused,” Witten said. “It’s going to be on the high end, unfortunately. It looks serious and bad.”
There are at least “four weather-related deaths” in or around Bollinger County, highway patrol Sgt. Clark Parrott told NBC News late Wednesday morning, though he said that number is fluid.
“The damage is pretty widespread. It’s just heartbreaking to see it,” Parrott said.
Glen Allen resident Joshua Wells, 30, couldn’t sleep overnight, out of anxiety about the incoming tornado that rocked his community.
Despite extensive damage to his house, Wells counted himself to be among the lucky ones.
“It’s been hellish,” he told NBC News. “Part of the roof has been sucked off and one of the exterior walls has been slightly caved in so it’s not really livable. But it’s hardly the worst house (in the neighborhood). There are houses with whole walls taken off and some buildings have been leveled to the foundation.”
The highway patrol has urged people to avoid the area as first responders work to find injured.
“There continue to be tornado warnings in areas of Missouri,” according to the State Emergency Management Agency. “Have multiple ways to get alerts and seek safe shelter when alerted.”
In addition to ongoing threats in Missouri, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center also issued tornado warnings in four major swaths of the Midwest and mid-South as wild weather is feared to hit:
There have been at least 478 tornado reports across 25 states so far this year, doubling the average for this point in a single year.
Those twisters have been linked to at least 63 deaths, not including the multiple fatalities in southeastern Missouri. The annual average of tornado-related deaths is 71.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.