One person died and at least 10 others received minor injuries after a tornado ripped through Perryville in southeast Missouri Tuesday night. The twister touched down on I-55 just north of the city, leaving the highway closed for hours.
Reports of tornadic activity including power flashes, tree damage and overturned cars on the interstate came in right after 8 p.m.
Perry County Emergency Management Director Hank Voelker says the twister was devastating upon touchdown.
“The tornado actually touched down on top of a vehicle salvage yard” said Voelker. “And it has flung 20, maybe as many as 30 salvaged vehicles from basically a junkyark across the interstate.”
As of 4 a.m., U.S. Highway 61 was closed north of Perryville. Voelker says unstable power lines figured into the decision to reroute traffic there.
A number of families have been displaced by the tornado. “We’ve got 10 homes which sustained severe, catastrophic damage” said Voekler. Those people have moved to shelter with other family members. Voelker says all community members have been accounted for.
He says crews will be able to assess further damage Wednesday morning after navigating around dangling power lines damaged by the high winds.
The National Weather Service has a storm damage team in the Perryville area today to try and determine what level of tornado hit that region Tuesday night.
14 fire and search and rescue departments from as far away as the St. Louis area have assisted with emergency relief. Voelker says St. Louis fire fighters were able to help determine the massive size of the tornado.
“They brought some technology that we were able to measure from satellite imaging, an area of 13 miles long where there was clearly damage.”
Governor Eric Greitens released a statement at around 10:30 Tuesday night about the disaster. He said “Tough and tragic news tonight out of Perryville where there are confirmed reports of a tornado touching down. Our thoughts and prayers are with the community and those affected. State Emergency Management was monitoring severe weather in the region and was prepared to respond to any situation. We have already deployed strike teams and resources, and this community should know that the full weight and support of the state of Missouri is behind you.”