'It's like a bomb went off;' EF-3 tornado strikes Jefferson City, leaving extensive damage behind

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMOV/AP/CNN) — A “violent tornado” touched down in Jefferson City, Missouri, causing heavy damage, according to the National Weather Service, but there were no immediate reports of fatalities.

APTOPIX Severe Weather

A car is trapped under the fallen metal roof of the Break Time gas station and convenience store in tornado-hit Jefferson City, MO., Thursday, May 23, 2019. The National Weather Service has confirmed a large and destructive tornado has touched down in Missouri's state capital, causing heavy damage and trapping multiple people in the wreckage of their homes. (AP Photo/David A. Lieb)

The service reported that a “confirmed large and destructive tornado” was observed over Jefferson City at 11:43 p.m. Wednesday, moving northeast at 40 mph. The capital city has a population of about 40,000 and is located about 130 miles west of St. Louis.

"Everything. Cars buildings, windows- you name it. Everything was damaged," said resident Ian Ramsey. "It looks like a war zone, like a bomb just went off over here ... It's indescribable how much fear was going through me, the fear of not knowing if I was going to survive or whether or not I'll be torn apart or go miles away from here"

The National Weather Service rated a portion of the path of the tornado as an EF-3, but further surveying is being conducted Thursday. A later survey said the tornado had an estimated wind peak of 160 MPH.

WATCH: Lightning illuminates sky, showing massive Jefferson City tornado

"Across the state, Missouri's first responders once again responded quickly and with strong coordination as much of the state dealt with extremely dangerous conditions that left people injured, trapped in homes, and tragically led to the death of three people," Governor Mike Parson said. "I want our responders and all the neighbors who acted selflessly to help their neighbors to know how much their heroic efforts are appreciated by all Missourians."

Missouri Public Safety said the three were killed in the Golden City area of Barton County, near Missouri's southwest corner, as the severe weather moved in from Oklahoma, where rescuers struggled to pull people from high water. The tornado hit during a week that has seen several days of tornadoes and torrential rains in parts of the Southern Plains and Midwest.

[WATCH: Raw Skyzoom4 video shows scope of Jefferson City damage]

The damage spanned about a 3-mile area in the state capital, Jefferson City Police Lt. David Williams said. About 20 people were rescued by emergency personnel, and although there were no reports of missing people, authorities planned to make door-to-door checks on Thursday, he said.

[READ: A trucker was on the side of the road when Jeff City tornado hit. It blew a house underneath his trailer]

The weather service reported that a "confirmed large and destructive tornado" was observed over Jefferson City at 11:43 p.m. Wednesday, moving northeast at 40 mph (64 kph). The capital city has a population of about 40,000 and is located about 130 miles (209 kilometers) west of St. Louis.

“It’s a chaotic situation right now,” Williams said.

Williams spoke from the Cole County Sheriff’s office, where debris including insulation, roofing shingles and metal pieces lay on the ground outside the front doors.

Area hospitals did not see an immediate influx of patients but set up command centers in case the need arises. Around 5:40 a.m. Thursday, the Missouri Department of Public Safety said they have confirmed nine patients at area hospitals due to storm-related injuries. 

“We have four patients with minor injuries,” said Jessica Royston, spokeswoman at St. Mary’s Health Center.

Power outages were reported in parts of the city.

Early Thursday morning, Gov. Parson said that non-essential state employees who work in Jefferson City should not report to work. 

Missouri Public Safety tweeted that there was a possibility of more tornadoes and flash flooding.

Austin Thomson, 25, was in the laundry room of his apartment complex to do his wash and noticed the wind started picking up. He saw sheets of rain coming down and a flagpole bend and then slam to the ground. The windows broke and he dove behind the washers and dryers.

After it calmed down, he walked outside to check the damage.

“There’s basically one building that’s basically one story now. Every building there is two stories.”

Severe Weather Missouri

This still image taken from video provided by Chris Higgins shows a tornado, Wednesday, May 22, 2019, in Carl Junction, Mo. The tornado caused some damage in the town of Carl Junction, about 4 miles (6.44 kilometers) north of the Joplin airport. (Chris Higgins via AP)

Armmon Cody was at his grandparents home when the tornado struck.

"I'm helping her down the basement steps. As soon as I'm helping her down the steps, all the windows break," said Cody.

The roof on Gwen McGeorge's home is gone but her priority now is getting valuables out of her home that the tornado did not sweep away.

She was in the bathtub when the tornado hit; she and her husband never made it to the basement. While the moment was terrifying, she can joke about the thought that raced through her head.

"I just knew we were going to die and I asked my husband 'Please don't let me die naked in the street' because I just jumped out of the tub," she said.

When the sounds of the tornado came to an end, she found pajamas and made her way outside. She heard her neighbors checking on each other to see if everyone was okay.

"I felt like an earthquake"

As many were sleeping late Wednesday night, Missouri's capital took a direct hit from a tornado -- one of many bringing chaos to the central United States.

"When it hit... it felt like an earthquake," Cindy Sandoval-Jakobsen said.

The Jefferson City resident said she took her daughter, who is blind, and the two hid in the only room in their house with no windows.

The "Wedge Tornado," one that is wider in the funnel than it is tall, was observed over Jefferson City shortly after 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday. It moved at 40 mph and sent debris 13,000 feet into the air, according to the National Weather Service.

However, no deaths have been reported in the city as of Thursday morning, Jefferson City police Lt. David Williams said at a news conference according to CNN affiliate KRCG.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons said on Twitter that Jefferson City's tornado was one of many bringing chaos throughout the state.

"Major tornadoes across state tonight, including Jeff City. We're doing okay but praying for those that were caught in damage, some are still trapped - local emergency crews are on site and assisting," Parsons tweeted.

The tornadoes are part of a deadly spring storm system that has unleashed drenching rain, flash flooding and hail in the central US -- along with more than 130 reports of tornadoes in five days.

Tornadoes across the state

More than 150 miles southwest of Jefferson City, three people died Wednesday night in Golden City, Missouri, and several others in Carl Junction were injured, according to the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency.

Search and rescue missions were launched in Golden City after a possible tornado, according to Missouri State Emergency Management spokesman Ron Walker.

Jeff City damage

Damage seen caused by a tornado in Jefferson City, Missouri on Wednesday night. (Credit: Missouri Department of Public Safety / Twitter)

Another of the tornadoes was near Joplin, on the eighth anniversary of an EF5 tornado that killed 161 people in that city.

The National Weather Service said a damaging tornado was spotted and tennis ball-sized hail was possible.

According to radar images, the twister passed a few miles north of Joplin.

A husband and wife in Missouri were killed Tuesday when their SUV skidded across the center lines of US Highway 160 and the vehicle struck a semi.

Tornado spotted in Illinois

As the storms moved east, the heavy winds hit Illinois and one resident spotted a tornado touch ground off Highway 50

Flooding in Tulsa

Police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, are going through neighborhoods near a dam encouraging residents to get out of there in case the area floods due to release of water meant to keep the structure from failing.

The Army Corps of Engineers is releasing 215,000 cubic feet of water per second at the dam at Keystone Lake because the water is 29 feet above its normal level.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum tweeted that 215,000 cfs is the minimum rate they can release to keep the water in the reservoir from topping the floodgates. If the floodgates don't work, the dam could fail, Bynum said.

While that dam is about 20 miles from the city, Tulsa authorities were telling people to be ready to leave their homes quickly if the situation deteriorates.

"If you live an area along a river, creek or stream, we ask that you prepare now in case you are asked to evacuate. Have a GO KIT ready -- clothes, medication, important documentation, baby supplies. Charge your digital devices now," the city tweeted.

Copyright 2019 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All Rights Reserved

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