Tornados blamed for deaths in Southwest Missouri, Southern Illinois

Storm damage in Branson, Mo.

The death count is rising after a line of tornados swept across the Midwest early Wednesday morning.

Gov. Jay Nixon signed Executive Order 12-03 Tuesday morning to declare a state of emergency in Missouri in response to severe storms that began late Tuesday night and continued into the early morning hours.

Initial reports indicate that the storms have resulted in at least three deaths, numerous injuries and significant, widespread damage in several communities in southwest and southeast Missouri. There was significant damage to business and tourist locations in Branson, including hotels and theaters.

The weather system has involved tornadoes and high winds and has caused the loss of life, numerous injuries and significant damage to communities across Missouri, including communities such as Branson, Buffalo, Cassville, Lebanon and Oak Ridge.

Gov. Pat Quinn has also declared a disaster area in a southern Illinois city after a tornado left six people dead and at least 100 people injured. A spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency says the coroner's office in the small town of Harrisburg has reported the updated death toll.

The National Weather Service gives the deadly tornado that struck Harrisburg an EF4 rating.

Map courtesy of Google Maps.

KHQA spoke with Karol Ehmen at Chaddock. She has a bunch of family down in Harrisburg. She talked to her cousin yesterday who lives a few blocks from where the tornado hit. He said the hardest part of yesterday was keeping the kids occupied. The town is a very close knit community. Ehmen also said her family is now concerned about more bad weather that's supposed to get hit Friday.

"My emergency management team and I have been tracking these storms through the night and coordinating with local officials to ensure the safety of affected Missourians and to make sure that local responders have the resources and support they need,â?? Gov. Nixon said. "As we did throughout 2011â??s numerous emergencies, the state of Missouri will assist at every stage of this response to keep Missouri families safe and help communities recover and rebuild."

Shelters for residents affected by the storm have been established in Branson, Buffalo, Kimberling City and Lebanon. Shelter information is available at


Missourians who need disaster information, shelter information or referrals are urged to call 211. The 211 service number is now available for most areas in Missouri. In areas where the 211 number is not operational, citizens can call 800-427-4626. Weather and emergency information also are available on the state of Missouriâ??s website,


In Branson, searchers are going house to house in some neighborhoods checking on residents.

If you're interested in donating to relief, you can do so through the Harrisburg Disaster Relief Fund at People's National Bank branches. You can click here for more information on how to donate.

KHQA will bring you updates as more details are released.