A relentless barrage of violent weather in the central United States left three people dead on Thursday, local media said, as tornadoes raked across southwest Missouri and devastated the state capital, and heavy rain flooded rivers in Oklahoma.
The reported casualties from the tornadoes, which struck Missouri in the middle of the night, brought the week’s weather-related death toll in the region to at least seven, as forecasters said the rain and threat of damaging winds were expected to continue.
“It looks to stay quite wet over the next week across the central portion of the country,” said meteorologist Mark Chenard of the National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
The weather service’s St. Louis office confirmed tornadoes touched down near Joplin, Missouri, late Wednesday, and local media, including the Joplin Globe, reported at least three dead.
In Jefferson City, the state capital, officials said a “massive” twister caused widespread damage to buildings, trees, cars and power lines, but no fatalities.
Missouri Governor Mark Parson said at least 20 people were treated at hospitals for injuries, most of them released shortly thereafter, and praised the city’s tornado warning system.
“That’s why we didn’t have any fatalities in Jefferson City last night, why we didn’t have more injuries,” Parson said on CNN.
Weather forecasters expect the region to get another two inches of rain through Friday.
The Arkansas River-front town of Webbers Falls was ordered evacuated on Thursday, while residents of several other rain-swollen riverfront communities were advised to leave, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Caine said by phone.
Rainfall in the coming days is predicted to be about 2 inches across eastern Kansas, Oklahoma, and into western Missouri, with localized spots getting up to 5 inches, forecasters said.
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