The deadly tornadoes that swept Missouri on New Year’s Eve caught everyone off guard, even emergency responders. However, the State Emergency Management Agency says the response was quick and effective.

Click the photo to be redirected to a slideshow of the damage caused by Dec. 31 tornadoes that swept Missouri. Photos courtesy Department of Public Safety.

John Campbell is the Operations Chief for the State Emergency Managenment Agency. He says he’s pleased with the multi-agency response, rescue and recovery. Campbell says even though it was on a holiday, emergency responders were at the ready, and that initial reports were received from local authorities within minutes, responders from throughout the state were on the scenes within an hour.

Hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed in Fort Leonard Wood, rural Dent County and Sunset Hills near St. Louis. Campbell says at this point, no one that was displaced by the storms is relying on shelters anymore, which is a good sign that recovery efforts are working.

Campbell says SEMA, MoDOT, the Department of Health, the Red Cross and others continue to help people get back on their feet.

Task Force One — which operates out of the Boone County Fire Department — was dispatched to look for people who were possibly trapped or hurt in the aftermath. Task Force One was a search and rescue team that assisted at the World Trade Center on 9-11.

A total of seven people were killed in Missouri and Arkansas. Hundreds of people’s homes were damaged or destroyed.

Department of Public Safety spokesman Mike O’Connell says Fort Wood was hardest hit, where about 30 homes were destroyed and about 65 others were in need of repair. Near St. Louis, more than 100 structures were damaged or destroyed.

The Red Cross has been giving out hotel vouchers to displaced Missouri residents, and Fort Leonard Wood officials were finding places for displaced residents to stay.

Major Gen. David Quantock says only four minor injuries were reported at Fort Wood, where hundreds of soldiers were gone for Christmas break.

The Weather Service says the tornado that hit Fort Wood was an F-3 with winds of 136 to 165 mph — the Sunset Hills tornado stronger. Dent County was damaged by an F-1 tornado. Another small twister caused damage at Table Rock lake, mostly to boats and docks.

Jessica Machetta reports [Mp3, 1:10 min.]