ELDON, Mo. — With thunder still booming in the distance and low clouds covering the sky, members of the community of Eldon began to assess the damage on Thursday morning from the previous night's tornado.
The National Weather Service has not officially confirmed it was a tornado that touched down in Eldon, but a video taken by Jaclyn Morrow, in nearby Eugene, Mo., on Wednesday night, May 22, shows a tornado on the horizon.
NWS Meteorologist Justin Titus said they issued a tornado warning for the area at 10:45 p.m. due to a tornado heading north towards Eldon from the west southwest. The storm hit the city at 10:55 p.m. on Wednesday, May 22.
According to Miller County Emergency Management Director Mike Rayhart, after the sirens went off, the power went out, there was heavy rain, strong winds and thunder. “We took shelter,” Rayhart said.
[Full photo gallery of Eldon tornado damage at the end of the article]
Multiple residences, businesses and government buildings were destroyed or sustained damage. “The east side neighborhood took the brunt of the damage,” Rayhart reports. “Multiple residences and the Willow Creek Retirement homes were destroyed.” Residents of the home were reportedly evacuated to the Eldon Church of the Nazarene for temporary shelter. The Salvation Army and the Red Cross have since set up shelter at the Elks Community Lodge and the South School FEMA Storm Shelter.
“It was scary and my heart breaks for everyone here,” Rayhart said.
Countless vehicles were damaged and had broken windows, resulting from all the flying debris.
According to Miller County Sheriff Louie Gregoire, there have been no reported fatalities, but there are reports of minor injuries. Sheriff Gregoire said mutual aid has been provided by multiple state and county agencies, including the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Morgan and Moniteau Counties.
Trapped and Injured
Sheriff Gregoire was traveling into Eldon from Tuscumbia, where he lives, immediately after the storm hit when he was flagged down to come to the aid of a person trapped inside of a tractor trailer that had been flipped over. “The driver was sleeping in his semi in the parking lot of the old Fasco building, when the tornado hit,” Sheriff Gregoire said. “It rolled the semi over on its side and then threw another trailer into the truck.” The driver was transported to the hospital with undisclosed injuries.
Search and Rescue
As of 11 a.m., Sheriff Gregoire and his deputies, along with other first responders, were going house to house to be sure no one was hurt or trapped, some of the deputies had been on duty since 7 a.m.
“It looks like a war zone,” Sheriff Gregoire said describing the scene. “A lot of homes have been destroyed and damaged. I talked to several homeowners that were in their homes when their roof was ripped off. It is a miracle no one was killed.”
There are uprooted trees and powerlines in the roadways and broken gas lines.
“Emergency response has been amazing,” Rayhart commended. “It is hard to prepare for something like this. You do drills and prepare how to react, but until it actually happens you do not know the full impact of something like this. The EMS response has been good, and the entire community has come to the aid of their neighbors.”
There are also reports of homes severely damaged in outlying areas, including the city of Mt. Pleasant. “We have had people driving in to look at the damage,” Sheriff Gregoire said. “This makes it hard for us to do our jobs and hinders our efforts. We ask that if you do not have business in the city, to avoid the area.” The sheriff’s department shut down roads into Mt. Pleasant at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, due to onlookers. “The utility companies have many of the roads blocked, as they work to restore electricity, we do not need additional traffic. The first responders, other essential personnel must have clear roads, so they can evaluate the extensive damage, repair utilities and clear the roadways of debris.”
The electricity was out in many parts of the city, but cell phones were working. Rayhart advised people that own property in the city to wait to inspect it and if people need to check on the well-being of their loved ones they can call the sheriff’s department at 573-369-2341, who have and will do well-being checks.
There are some who have lost everything they own. Persons interested in helping people can call the city to get in contact with legitimate agencies that will provide aid, first the essential needs of food, water and shelter. Call the City of Eldon Police at 573-392-5611.
“I was talking with some of my deputies and we said we live in tornado alley, but it’s been a long time since Miller County has experienced something to this severity,” Sheriff Gregoire said.
“We will clean up and rebuild,” Rayhart said with determination.
A separate tornado hit Golden City, 45 miles from Joplin, killing three people.
The Eldon tornado hit on the same day as the as the devastating Joplin tornado that killed 161 people on May, 22, 2011.