Tornado in Jefferson City, Mo., may have caused ‘catastrophic damage’: reports

Jefferson City, the capital city of Missouri, has taken a direct hit from a tornado and suffered possibly “catastrophic” damage, according to reports.

There were no immediate reports about fatalities. Initial reports in local media claimed dozens were hospitalized with injuries, but state Public Safety officials tweeted Thursday morning that the reports were overblown, and that only nine people were admitted to Jefferson City hospitals with storm-related injuries.

According to the National Weather Service, a “confirmed large and destructive tornado” was observed over Jefferson City, at 11:43 p.m., moving northeast at 40 mph.

The twister appeared to have traveled through the center part of town, the Jefferson City News-Tribune reported.

"We are currently identifying the location of damages and searching for injured residents," Lt. David Williams of the city's police department said in a statement to the News-Tribune. "The primary need at this time is for those not affected to stay clear of the impacted areas so that Emergency personnel can assist those in need."

Williams referred to the aftermath of the tornado hit as a "chaotic" situation, KOMU reported.

DOZENS OF TORNADOS SLAM MIDWEST AS FLOODWATERS RISE; AT LEAST 2 DEAD

The Missouri Department of Public Safety reported extensive damage along Ellis Boulevard near Highway 54 in Jefferson City. (Missouri Department of Public Safety)

The Missouri Department of Public Safety reported extensive damage along Ellis Boulevard near Highway 54 in Jefferson City. (Missouri Department of Public Safety)

The Missouri Department of Public Safety reported extensive damage along Ellis Boulevard near Highway 54 and warned of downed power lines. Authorities warned residents that all downed lines should be considered live -- and advised that people stay away from areas that have experienced heavy damage.

The state's Emergency Management Agency tweeted early Thursday that tornado warnings were still in effect in parts of Missouri and that flash flooding remained a threat as long as rain continued.

Gov. Mike Parson issued a statement via Twitter:

"Major tornados across state tonight, including Jeff City," Parson wrote. "We’re doing okay but praying for those that were caught in damage, some are still trapped - local emergency crews are on site and assisting."

The governor added later that there was damage to state buildings and power was down, so he advised non-essential state employees to stay home Thursday.

Meanwhile, city officials have requested help from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), the report said.

News accounts and posts on social media refer to people possibly trapped in apartment complexes, gas leaks, possible damage to the Missouri Statehouse and other impacts.

The National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for Cole County about 20 minutes before the twister reached Jefferson City, the News-Tribune reported. The tornado first touched ground in the Eldon and Brazito areas, the report said.

Weather Nation said emergency officials were reporting "multiple injuries & structure collapses" in the city.

Earlier in the day, some Jefferson City residents and businesses were ordered to leave as the Missouri River continued to rise after recent rains.

City officials issued a mandatory evacuation order on the north side of the river. The Missouri Statehouse building, state penitentiary and nearly all of the city's homes are on the south side of the river.

Residents of several communities in Oklahoma and Kansas also were urged to evacuate.

Jefferson City police Lt. Dave Williams told the Associated Press that only about five to 10 homes were in the mandatory evacuation area.

As a precaution, the Missouri National Guard also moved four helicopters out of the city's airport, which also is on the north side of the river. And a Memorial Day weekend airshow was canceled.

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Residents of the area, or those miles away who claimed ties to Jefferson City, posted messages of support on social media.

Jefferson City lies near the center of the state, about 158 miles east of Kansas City and about 132 miles west of St. Louis.

Storms also struck other parts of Missouri on Wednesday night, with a large tornado blamed for three fatalities in the Golden City area of Barton County, the Kansas City Star reported.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. The Associated Press contributed to this story.