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Husband and Wife Killed in Missouri Tornado: The Home 'Is Completely Demolished'

People logo People 5/23/2019 Diane Herbst
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Around 9:30 Tuesday night, a tornado touched down in the rural outskirts of tiny Golden City, Missouri, killing three people, a spokesman for the Missiouri State Highway Patrol tells PEOPLE.

Husband and wife Kenneth G. Harris, 86, and Opal P. Harris, 83, were found 200 yards from their house, which was “completely demolished,” Sergeant John Lueckenhoff of the Missouri State Highway Patrol tells PEOPLE. “The home is completely gone.”

Betty Berg, 56, was also killed by the storm and her husband, Mark Berg, seriously injured, he says. The Bergs were in a mobile home and found within the debris and structure itself, Lueckenhoff says, adding that Mark was transported to Freeman Hospital in Joplin.

The tornado also took the roof off a fertilizer plant, and people within a 1-mile radius were evacuated, he adds.

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A little over two hours later and some 170 miles away, another tornado struck, tearing through the state’s capital of Jefferson City, leaving at least 20 injured.

Winds reached an estimated 160 mph and the storm’s start time was 11:40 pm, reports KMBC News 9, citing the National Weather Service in St. Louis.

“We were very fortunate last night that we didn’t have more injuries than what we had, and that we didn’t have more fatalities across the state,” Gov. Mike Parson said at press conference Thursday.

The rural area where there Harris’s and Bergs lived is about one to three miles outside of central Golden City, a woman at the township’s offices tells PEOPLE.

Within the approximately 1-mile square Golden City, a small town in the southwestern part of the state with less than 700 residents, no structures were damaged, just trees and poles, according to a post on Golden City’s Facebook page.

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When the tornado struck Jefferson City shortly before midnight, debris was sent as high as 13,000 feet into the air, the National Weather Service told CNN.

“When it hit … it felt like an earthquake,” resident Cindy Sandoval-Jakobsen told the network.

Jefferson City’s Larry Jett told KMBC 9 “I thought we were dead” after his home of 43 years was directly hit by the tornado. The station reports that Jett and his mother “were picked up off the floor and thrown back down.”

Jefferson City is now littered with bricks, trees and downed power lines, according to CNN. “Many, many buildings have significant damage, and there’s a lot of buildings that have small damage as well. It’s very widespread,” Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin told CNN.

“It sounds as if the injuries have been few, which is truly amazing considering the extent of the damage,” she told the network.

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