(MONET) — Missouri’s junior senator describes the EF-3 tornado that struck Jefferson City one year ago today as devastating.
The May 22, 2019 tornado, which the National Weather Service (NWS) in St. Louis says packed an estimated peak wind of 160 miles per hour, destroyed about 240 homes and businesses.
“I remember my very first feeling was just incredible gratitude and thankfulness that more lives were not lost and more people not injured, because the devastation, the severity of the storm, the tornado was very, very significant,” Senator Josh Hawley says.
Senator Hawley walked down East Capitol Avenue in Jefferson City with a Missourinet reporter a year ago Saturday, viewing the devastation. Hawley praised the more than 1,000 volunteers who turned out that day, to remove debris and to help tornado victims.
“People coming with their tools and their chainsaws to help and clear away things,” Hawley told Missourinet that afternoon, in blazing heat. “People taking in neighbors and letting them stay in their homes, it really is a testament to the spirit of this state.”
East Capitol Avenue is just east of the State Capitol and near the old Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP), which also took a direct hit from the tornado.
Hawley visited that afternoon with residents and shopkeepers who had been affected. Some had lost everything, and were in tears.
During an interview this week, Hawley reflected on that tour. He says the volunteers who showed up in Jefferson City that day “showed the very best of who we are.”
“I also remember the number of people lining the street who were out helping their neighbors, out delivering food, I think there was a local restaurant owner who had set up a tent and was cooking meals for people right there on the spot,” says Hawley.
The restaurant owner donated all of the food that day to tornado victims and to volunteers.
There were no fatalities from the tornado, which State Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, described as an amazing testament to the community and the coordination with first responders.
Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin describes the tornado as terrifying, noting the extensive destruction.
“But the damage was outdone by the volunteers. The sheer power of the tornado was no match for our community strength. We were determined to come back from this stronger, and we are,” Tergin says.