Tornadoes kill at least 2 as storms sweep across Missouri

Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Chuck Kurtenbach, left, and his neighbor James O'Neal look at a classic guitar that they found in the wreckage of O'Neal's home after it was destroyed by a tornado near Niangua, Mo., Monday, January 7, 2008. At least one person was killed Monday night when a tornado hit a rural area north of Marshfield in southwest Missouri, the State Emergency Management Agency said. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

MARSHFIELD, Mo. (AP) -- Authorities began assessing damage Tuesday after rare winter tornadoes hit sections of Missouri, leaving at least two people dead and reports of flooding in some areas.

One of the victims, a 53-year-old woman, was killed when a tornado hit a group of mobile homes in a wooded area about 10 miles north of Marshfield late Monday, tipping over some of the homes and leaving parts of others hanging in nearby trees.

The other victim was an elderly woman who was killed near Strafford in Greene County. The victims' identities were not released.

Donald Teaster, who owns four of the mobile homes in the acreage near Marshfield, said he only had enough time to grab his wallet and credit cards and get into his van before a tornado turned his mobile home upside down.

Teaster, 50, said his home was only about 150 feet from the mobile home where the woman was killed and her husband injured. His mobile home was flipped upside down, while hers was shredded.

"I feel lucky," said Teaster, who spent the night in his van. "If it had been a 150 feet over it would have been me instead of her."

In Strafford, nearly 100 people showed up at a shelter after a pair of tornadoes apparently hit that community of about 1,100 residents, but most had left by midnight, Greene County spokeswoman Jenny Edwards said.

In Marshfield, three shelters were opened for storm victims and a triage center was set up at a local church. But with only two people seeking shelter, two of shelters were closed, McReynolds said.

While it appeared Webster County had suffered the most damage, tornado warnings were issued for several counties as the storms moved northeastward overnight. The storms also dumped heavy rains on parts of the state, with flooding reported in parts of southwest Missouri.

Violent storms began sweeping through central Missouri mid-afternoon Monday, with several tornado warnings in effect as early as 4:15 p.m. They intensified throughout the evening, cutting a diagonal swath from the state's southwest corner on a line through Springfield and toward St. Louis.

Meteorologists said the unusual weather was the result of warm, moist air moving from the south that brought temperatures hovering near 70 degrees on Sunday and Monday.

"It's very unseasonable for this time of year," said meteorologist Benjamin Sipprell from the service's St. Louis office. "The atmosphere is just right."

In Moniteau County, witnesses reported a possible tornado touching down four miles northeast of California and moving northeast, KMIZ-TV reported. The weather service could not immediately verify those reports.

The weather service was also investigating reports of possible tornado west of Osceola in St. Clair County, said David Gaede, a meteorologist with the service's Springfield office.

Associated Press writer Bill Draper in Kansas City contributed to this report.

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