Our brush with a tornado

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the tornado that struck Jefferson City on May 22.

The storm’s path took it straight through the heart of the city. As it entered town, the tornado demolished part of the Riley Auto Group’s dealership campus. From there it proceeded northeast through businesses, homes and apartments before crashing through the city’s downtown historic district and crossing the Missouri River.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s headquarters is located on Capitol Avenue and was spared from catastrophic damage by the smallest margin. We didn’t know our building’s fate until arriving early the next morning.

It was a surreal scene. Police and disaster responders were everywhere. Powerlines were down. Many buildings around us had severe damage, some to the point of being unrecognizable.

The Missouri Chamber was extremely fortunate, suffering only a few shattered and damaged windows, lost trees and a lawn full of debris.

We owe much gratitude to the earlier generation of Missouri Chamber leaders who designed and built our headquarters. This building is a rock of concrete and more than stood its own in its near brush with an EF-3 tornado.

In fact, we were able to safely open our doors for staff to return by 1 p.m. the following afternoon.

However, many buildings in our immediate neighborhood suffered a much worse fate. This region of Jefferson City has some of the city’s oldest structures. Some of these buildings house small businesses. Others are homes or multifamily residences. Some buildings here had been waiting for a second lease on life as the city pursued a plan for renovation and investment.

Following the tornado, several of these structures are now uninhabitable and their future is uncertain. You can see the damage for yourself here.

In the days following the tornado, we reached out to some of our neighbors to see how our headquarters building could serve the community during the cleanup and rebuilding process. City and neighborhood leaders later met here to coordinate their efforts.

It’s safe to say that May 22 is a day the Missouri Chamber family will never forget. One of the most memorable parts of the day is the many, many of you who reached out to us following the storm. Our phones were ringing all day. We received many text messages and emails. Your concern and well wishes were a silver lining during a challenging time. We greatly appreciate your support.

If you would like to help our Jefferson City neighbors rebound from the storm, please consider making a donation to the United Way of Central Missouri’s Disaster Recovery Fund or to the American Red Cross Central and Northern Missouri Chapter.

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