A southeast Missouri congressman says residents in the small town of Dexter are thankful that there were no injuries or deaths in Saturday night’s EF-2 tornado, which struck the town’s hospital and damaged at least 150 homes.

Southeast Missouri Congressman Jason Smith tours tornado-damaged Dexter on July 13, 2021 (photo courtesy of Congressman Smith’s office)

U.S. Rep. Jason Smith (R-Salem), who toured Dexter neighborhoods on Tuesday, says the tornado packed 120 mile-per-hour winds and remained on the ground for more than five miles.

“When we went through the residential area, there were trailers that were completely destroyed. Numerous homes (where) trees went all the way through,” Smith says.

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Paducah says the tornado struck at 8:18 pm on Saturday. Most of the damaged homes are missing shingles and siding, and several had trees fall on them. Several garages were blown from their foundations as well.

The NWS says hundreds of trees in Dexter and Stoddard County were uprooted or snapped.

Congressman Smith also toured Dexter’s hospital, which remains closed as of Wednesday morning. He says there is extensive damage to the Southeast Health hospital.

Southeast Missouri Congressman Jason Smith and State Rep. Herman Morse (right) prepare to tour the tornado-damaged Dexter hospital on July 13, 2021 (photo courtesy of the congressman’s office)

The “Southeast Missourian” reports the hospital will remain closed until structural assessments are finished and operations are restored. A command center has been established at the hospital site.

The NWS says the tornado blew out hospital windows and ceiling panels.

“Patients from West Plains all the way to St. Louis were diverted, and everything was done without anyone being injured. You talk about the community of Dexter stepping up and taking care of their friends and neighbors,” Smith says.

Missourinet Cape Girardeau television partner KFVS reports 22 patients and 40 staff members at Southeast Health were evacuated after the tornado. The NWS Paducah office says the tornado also damaged numerous vehicles that were parked at the Dexter hospital.

Congressman Smith, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee on Capitol Hill, says it’s crucial for the tornado-damaged hospital in Dexter to re-open quickly. Smith’s district has seen five rural hospital closings since 2016, and says residents across the region depend on the Dexter hospital.

“Dexter has over 7,500 people. It covers Stoddard County and remaining counties in regards to health care needs, so we need to get this hospital opened up as soon as possible,” says Smith.

State Rep. Herman Morse (R-Dexter) and other officials joined Congressman Smith for Tuesday’s hospital tour, where they also met with utility workers who’ve been working around the clock to restore power. The “Southeast Missourian” reports Ameren Missouri has restored power to the hospital and to the adjacent medical building, and that crews are currently repairing the roof. They’ll then have to clean patient units in the hospital.

Smith praises the job that Ameren Missouri crews have done.

The tornado, which crossed Highway 60, also struck Dexter’s Burger King restaurant. Smith says all of the telephone poles near the hospital were torn apart by the tornado, but have since been restored.

Smith notes the nearby Bootheel town of Malden was struck by an EF-2 tornado in 2018. The Malden tornado caused major damage to 40 homes. Damage from that tornado was estimated at $2 million.

Click here to listen to Brian Hauswirth’s full interview with U.S. Rep. Jason Smith (R-Salem), which was recorded on July 13, 2021, just after the congressman toured tornado-damaged Dexter:

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