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Deadly Tornadoes Strike Midwest


Several tornadoes struck the Midwest last night, leaving three people dead in Missouri and several structures damaged in the state capital city, Jefferson City. Missouri Governor Mike Parson spoke this morning.


MIKE PARSON: I want to emphasize that, you know, we're early and, you know, we're just getting the daylight now, trying to figure out what all is the damages are out there, make sure everybody's there.

INSKEEP: NPR's Frank Morris of our member station KCUR in Kansas City is covering this story. Frank, good morning.


INSKEEP: OK, so we heard from the governor that it's just getting to be daylight out there, and people are just getting a look around. But how bad is the damage, based on what you know so far?

MORRIS: Well, there's - there were a lot of tornadoes last night - about 30. And a number of them did some damage. And in Jefferson City, it's - there are - there's an apartment complex that was damaged, a hotel, a number of businesses. And you're talking about, you know, sheet metal just twisted up like a piece of garbage and kind of thrown on the street, roofs off of houses, that kind of thing. I mean, it looks like it was a fairly powerful tornado - not super, super powerful. There - another - a very big tornado came through, north of Joplin, which was just marking the eighth anniversary of the catastrophic tornado that hit there eight years ago, killing 161 people, doing almost $3 billion worth of damage.


MORRIS: A tornado almost that big went through, but...

INSKEEP: Didn't hit something that badly, at least.

MORRIS: Yeah, it hit a couple of towns, and that's the one that caused the fatalities - the known fatalities.

INSKEEP: The anniversary reminds us that you're in tornado country in the middle of the country there. And I know growing up in Indiana, it's common to have many tornadoes at once. But when you said 30 tornadoes at once - wow. That's just a lot of tornadoes.

MORRIS: Well, that is not an uncommon outbreak. But what we have had here, Steve, that's been kind of weird is a - we have six days now, and I count 195 reported tornadoes in that six-day span. There was one day when there was only a couple, but mostly, it's been 30, 45, 28, two days. And so we're having a real run of tornadoes. You look at the weather map for today - it looks exactly the same as the weather map for - practically the same. I kept refreshing it because I thought it was yesterday's weather map predicting a - tornadoes right through the same area where they hit yesterday.

INSKEEP: These must be some pretty massive storm systems you're dealing with.

MORRIS: Yeah, the big storm systems - and they're just the type that drop tornadoes. They just - you know, they spin up. It's not just tornadoes. They drop a lot of rain and hail.

INSKEEP: You've had flooding issues, as well, in some parts of Missouri.

MORRIS: Some - almost - you know, anywhere where there's a stream or a river, you've probably got flooding. The Missouri River is flooding in Jefferson City. So they got flooding on one side of town and a tornado hitting on the other in Jeff City. Oklahoma is a complete mess with flooding on rivers and streams. Yeah, we got flooding all over the place, and it's not going to let up any time soon.

INSKEEP: You would like people to take shelter when there's a tornado warning. But I think, wow, with this many tornadoes, at some point, people just kind of give up - I mean, go about their lives.

MORRIS: Yeah, people take it - you know, some people do. Some people don't. Some people freak out. Others just go out and watch the storms. It's just the way it is around here. It's part of life.

INSKEEP: Well, thanks for your calm reporting, Frank.

MORRIS: (Laughter) You take it easy, Steve.

INSKEEP: That is NPR's Frank Morris. He's talking with us from our member station KCUR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Frank Morris
Frank Morris has supervised the reporters in KCUR's newsroom since 1999. In addition to his managerial duties, Morris files regularly with National Public Radio. He’s covered everything from tornadoes to tax law for the network, in stories spanning eight states. His work has won dozens of awards, including four national Public Radio News Directors awards (PRNDIs) and several regional Edward R. Murrow awards. In 2012 he was honored to be named "Journalist of the Year" by the Heart of America Press Club.