On the night of May 22, 2019, an EF-1 tornado touched down at 10:56 p.m. about a mile southwest of Eldon, Mo., according to the National Weather Service. The EF-1 had peak winds estimated at 104 mph, and it cut a path through the heart of Eldon, tearing up trees, ripping roofs from homes, and hurling debris. For 45 minutes, the twister then made a nearly straight line toward Jefferson City.
Only moments after it touched down, Jaclyn Morrow, in nearby Eugene, Mo., accidentally caught a glimpse of the tornado as she videoed the storm rolling in. The footage is chilling...
As the tornado crossed into Cole County between 11 and 11:20 p.m., it strengthened to an EF-2, ripping roofs off well-built one- and two-story buildings, according to the NWS. It continued traveling northeast, and met with Highway 54 just northeast of Brazito, near the Moreau River bridge, only a few miles from Jefferson City. Around that time, the tornado strengthened to an EF-3, the NWS says, and then traveled along Highway 54, hurling vehicles and debris, and damaging or destroying a warehouse and car dealership.
By 11:40, the NWS says the tornado reached downtown Jefferson City, causing “severe damage to well-made residential structures.” The tornado plunged through the the heart of Jefferson City, traveling across the river, and entering Callaway county northeast of Jefferson City, where it dissipated near the Railwood Golf Club.
The tornado struck only four days after another violent storm blew through the Lake of the Ozarks area, toppling trees and flipping at least one dock. It also hit on the 8-year anniversary of the catastrophic Joplin, Mo. tornado that killed nearly 700 people. The NWS described that event this way:
On a hot and humid Sunday afternoon on May 22, 2011, a supercell thunderstorm tracked from extreme southeast Kansas into far southwest Missouri (NWS Springfield, County Warning Area). This storm produced an EF-5 tornado over Joplin, Missouri causing incredible devastation and a tragic loss of life. This storm along with others generated additional tornadoes, wind damage and flash flooding across far southwest Missouri.
A large portion of Joplin, Missouri was devastated by an EF-5 (greater than 200 mph) tornado resulting in 158 fatalities and over 1000 injured in the Joplin MO area. The Joplin tornado is the deadliest since modern record keeping began in 1950 and is ranked 7th among the deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history.
The tornado surpassed the June 8, 1953, tornado that claimed 116 lives in Flint, Mich., as the deadliest single tornado to strike the U.S. since modern tornado recordkeeping began in 1950. The deadliest tornado on record in the U.S. was on March 18, 1925. The Tri-State Tornado (MO, IL, IN) had a 291-mile path, was rated F5 based on a historic assessment, and caused 695 fatalities.
More information on 2011 Tornado statistics can be found at the following web site: https://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/2011_tornado_information.html
April and May often bring turbulent weather to Missouri and the Midwest, as warm and cool air masses collide: hail, powerful winds, severe thunderstorms, and heavy rainfall are a near-certainty every spring. Only a few weeks ago, on Monday, May 4, straight-line winds estimated between 80-90 mph pummeled Lebanon, Mo., just south of the Lake of the Ozarks, damaging roofs, uprooting trees, and tossing boats from a nearby manufacturing facility into the middle of Interstate Highway 44.
See LakeExpo's Eldon tornado coverage and photos, below.