More than 5 killed as tornado Missouri

A heartbroken and devastating tornado tore came through southeastern Missouri on Wednesday morning, killing at least five people and leaving widespread destruction as authorities warned of more twisters.

The tornado struck Bollinger County before dawn, sending first responders into a frantic search for injured people caught under the rubble, officials said.

“It’s with great regret that I can confirm five fatalities,” Bollinger County Sheriff Casey A. Graham said in statement.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Clark Parrott told NBC News early in the afternoon that officials are hopeful the death toll won’t grow.

“The damage is pretty widespread. It’s just heartbreaking to see it,” he said.

The tornado traversed rural Bollinger County, south of St. Louis, at a speed of about 45 mph, for about 15 minutes sometime between 3:30 a.m. and 4 a.m. CT, National Weather Service meteorologist David Witten said.

“It was significant given how much damage it caused,” he said. “It’s going to be on the high end, unfortunately. It looks serious and bad.”

Glen Allen resident Joshua Wells, 30, said he couldn’t sleep overnight, out of anxiety about the incoming tornado that rocked his community.

Despite extensive damage to his house, he counted himself to be among the lucky ones.

“It’s been hellish,” Wells told NBC News. “Part of the roof has been sucked off and one of the exterior walls has been slightly caved in so it’s not really livable. But it’s hardly the worst house. There are houses with whole walls taken off and some buildings have been leveled to the foundation.”

The highway patrol has urged people to avoid the area as first responders work to find injured survivors.

“There continue to be tornado warnings in areas of Missouri,” according to the State Emergency Management Agency. “Have multiple ways to get alerts and seek safe shelter when alerted.”

In addition to ongoing threats in Missouri, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center also issued tornado warnings in four major swaths of the Midwest and the mid-South as wild weather is feared to hit:

There have been at least 478 tornado reports across 25 states so far this year, doubling the average for this point in a single year.

Those twisters have been linked to at least 63 deaths, not including the multiple fatalities in southeastern Missouri. The annual average of tornado-related deaths is 71

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