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Missouri seeks tornado damage assessment for federal disaster declaration  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The state is seeking help from the federal government to conduct damage assessments from last week’s deadly tornadoes in preparation for an official request for disaster assistance. 

Gov. Mike Parson urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to collaborate with local and state partners on Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDAs) in Pemiscot, Reynolds, and Dunklin counties, which were ravaged by last week’s storms. 

The assessments will be used for a request for federal assistance. The State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) has already begun the process in collaboration with community officials, Parson said, while other communities may be included once more information is collected. 

“Last Friday, a series of fast-moving severe storms affected several areas of Missouri, resulting in at least six tornadoes and causing two deaths,” Parson said. “SEMA’s regional coordinators have helped local emergency managers with documenting extensive damage to public infrastructure, homes, businesses, electric power delivery systems, and emergency response costs in the impacted communities. Initial damage reports show a clear need for a formal review by FEMA as part of the federal disaster declaration process.”

If approved, the Joint Damage Assessment teams will be made up of local emergency personnel, FEMA, and SEMA. Teams would survey local storm damage and estimate recovery costs, the first step toward a federal disaster declaration from the president. Declarations require certain damage thresholds on the state and county levels. 

The state underwent the same process this summer after severe flooding affected 21 counties. Federal disaster declarations were approved in response to catastrophic flooding and tornadoes in 2019. 

The National Weather Service (NWS) reported at least six tornadoes in Missouri on Dec. 10. The storms led to the deaths of two Missourians, one in St. Charles County and another in Pemiscot County.

The rare December tornados had a major impact on electric infrastructure in Missouri, with the heaviest destruction seen in Pemiscot and Dunklin counties, according to the Governor’s Office. More than 20 large transmission towers between Missouri and Arkansas were damaged, leaving more than 30,000 customers without power overnight. Crews rerouted power from other sources for the time being until permanent replacements can be constructed. 

The most intense tornado reported in Missouri was an EF-3 in Defiance, meaning the community saw wind speeds exceeding 136 miles per hour. A tornado in the Bootheel has yet to be classified by the NWS. 

Parson visited communities impacted by the tornados Sunday. President Joe Biden also spoke with Parson and other governors whose states were impacted by the storms last week, committing federal support and FEMA’s assistance. 

SEMA is coordinating resource events at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Defiance from 4-8 p.m. Friday and the Hayti Community Center from 1-5 p.m. Saturday. Events will connect survivors with insurance information, legal services, financial assistance, and replacement food stamps. Those affected can also call the United Way at 211 to connect with recovery services.