BOLLINGER COUNTY, Mo. – A tornado left a miles-long path of destruction that took the lives of five people in an instant around 3 a.m. Wednesday. Tearful relatives stood at the site of what was once a trailer in Bollinger County.
One man, who did not want to be identified, detailed finding his five loved ones, who’d been swept away far from their home, and that he even had last words with one of them. He said two of the victims were 18 and 15 years old.
Search and rescue efforts continue in the area now being toured by Missouri Governor Mike Parson. Even the nearby house is gone, with the roof tossed to the next lot over and the foundation unrecognizable. The tornado’s hit on emergency personnel added to the challenge of the urgent search and clean-up.
“Seven neighbors, you don’t know where they are; four of them are missing,” said David McCormick, a storm survivor.
On Wednesday afternoon law enforcement confirmed five deaths, five injuries and 87 damaged buildings, 12 of which were completely destroyed.
Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Clark Parrott described the difficulty in just moving down the roads.
“Once we get the roads cleared, we will continue to go door to door to make sure everyone in this county is accounted for,” Parrot said.
“There’s not even words to describe it; it all happened so fast,” said Shelby Davidson, a storm survivor.
Five massive trees were uprooted in a front yard, a child’s bike was surrounded by splintered tree debris, and many power lines were downed.
Davidson pointed to the scene of debris now, saying, “This is her car and our house. It’s just a complete wreck.”
Some citizens took cover in a church stripped of its shingles and siding as they traded survival stories.
“Then my fiancé was outside in the bathtub with the mattress on it,” one person said.
The damage was visible for miles along Highway 34, with groups of search crews checking for possible injured tornado victims at a time when another storm approached. It began to pour down rain again, with lightning strikes and loud lightning claps that left you wondering what was next.
A broken gas line led to a road closure and the sounds of pops, followed by a small contained fire, right in the thick of the action.
A St. Louis County Search and Rescue Strike Team made the 90-mile trip to help. St. Charles County emergency responders also joined in to assist. Sikeston, Missouri, brought its mobile command from 40 miles away.
“We all come together when things like this happen,” Parrott said.
“First responders were amazing,” McCormick said. “The county, the state, Highway Patrol, just amazing.”
It was even more striking when an emergency response home base of operations was gone. FOX 2’s team had stumbled upon a hat, jackets, and boots hidden in a pile of rubble, giving hints that an emergency response home base of operations was there.