The Latest on severe weather moving across the central United States, as of mid afternoon Thursday:

3 p.m.

Residents of northeastern Oklahoma are bracing for possible flooding as the Army Corps of Engineers prepares to increase the rate of flow from a dam northwest of Tulsa to the highest rate in at least 21 years.

Warning sirens will sound Thursday in Tulsa after the Corps increases the flow rate at Keystone Dam to 250,000 cubic feet (7,079 cubic meters) per second, more than twice the flow rate recorded on Tuesday.

Officials say the move should lower the level of Keystone Lake, which is more than 20 feet (6 meters) higher than normal. But Tulsa officials say the increased flow could flood some downstream communities along the Arkansas River west of the city, possibly reaching Tulsa where heavy rains caused localized flooding earlier this week.

The Tulsa Police Department began evacuating neighborhoods along the Arkansas River on Wednesday afternoon.


2:45 p.m.

The U.S. Coast Guard has closed portions of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers to all vessel traffic due to the fast-rising water levels.

The Coast Guard said Thursday that the Mississippi is shut down from mile marker 179 to mile marker 184 in St. Louis. Meanwhile, a no-wake order was issued for a 70-mile (110-kilometer) stretch of the Illinois River from St. Louis to Mount Sterling, Illinois.

Heavy rains over the central U.S. have caused river levels to spike yet again. The Mississippi River also was closed at St. Louis earlier this month due to flooding.

Portions of the Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri rivers all are at or near major flood stage, and more heavy rain is projected in the coming days.


2:15 p.m.

One resident of Missouri's capital city says his family fled to their basement as terrific black clouds rolled in and that the windows started to shatter as he ran through his home to join them when a tornado struck.

David Surprenant says the powerful storm that turned over Jefferson City late Wednesday produced "the eeriest sound ever." Vehicles in a neighboring car dealership were tossed like toys across the lot.

He says it was all over in two or three minutes.

The 34-year-old Surprenant says he was watching the storm approach from his porch. At first it was pretty calm, then all of a sudden the wind picked up and black clouds rolled in so thick that he "couldn't see at all."

As he ran through the house, windows "started busting out."

Surprenant says none of his family was hurt.


1:20 p.m.

The president of Lincoln University in Jefferson City rode out a tornado in the basement of his official residence, which was severely damaged by the storm.

The Jefferson City News-Tribune reports President Jerald Woolfolk was not injured in the tornado overnight Wednesday.

Lincoln University spokeswoman Misty Young said the home appears to be uninhabitable. It was built in 1916 and bought by the university in 1965.

The Missouri Department of Transportation said eastbound lanes of Highway 50 near the home would be closed Thursday while debris is removed before it falls onto the highway.

Young said other damage on campus involved mostly broken doors and windows and downed trees.

The historically black school closed its campus on Thursday and will reopen Tuesday.


12:45 p.m.

Jefferson City residents had at least 30 minutes advance warning before the tornado hit.

Weather forecasters had been tracking the storm from Eldon. The tornado warning sirens first sounded in Jefferson City at 11:10 p.m. Wednesday. Police Lt. David Williams says they were sounded again at 11:40 p.m. after the first report of property damage in Cole County. The first calls about property damage in the city came about 6 or 7 minutes after that.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson says he's thankful there were "plenty of people doing everything they could to warn people - the general public - to take safety, and a lot of people did."


12:15 p.m.

Two barges that broke loose on the swollen Arkansas River have struck a dam in Oklahoma, and at least one sank into the river.

Muskogee County Emergency Management spokeswoman Tricia Germany says the barges were carrying a total of about 3,800 pounds of fertilizer. Germany says the concern was that the barges would block the water flow through the dam, but said the water initially appeared to be flowing well.

The barges have been floating out of control, on and off again, since Wednesday night near the town of Webbers Falls. Aerial footage from the Oklahoma City television station KFOR showed the moment of impact shortly before noon Thursday.

Officials had issued a mandatory evacuation order because of flooding concerns Wednesday night for the 600 residents of the town, which is located about 70 miles (113 kilometers) southeast of Tulsa


11:15 a.m.

More than 80 people are staying in shelters in central Missouri after tornadoes ripped through the region.

Tornadoes caused significant damage overnight in Missouri's capital city of Jefferson City and in Eldon, a town of about 4,900 residents around 30 miles (48 kilometers) southwest. The National Weather Service said it was the same storm that hit Jefferson City, though it's not clear whether it was the same tornado.

The American Red Cross opened one shelter in Jefferson City and two in Eldon. Spokeswoman Sharon Watson says 50 people were at the Jefferson City shelter as of late morning.

Thirty-two people were staying at a shelter at an Eldon elementary school. Watson didn't yet have details about how many people were staying at the third shelter, at the Eldon Community Center.


11:15 a.m.

An Oklahoma town says two barges are again loose and headed down the swollen Arkansas River toward a dam.

The barges near Webbers Falls first became loose Wednesday night, and officials had warned it would be "catastrophic" if they collided with a nearby dam. The two barges became stuck in rocks overnight but somehow broke loose Thursday morning as crews tried to secure them.

Aerial footage from Tulsa television station KOTV shows the pair of barges, apparently still tied together, floating slowly down the river.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation says the Interstate 40 bridge and a state highway bridge remain closed over the Arkansas River at Webber Falls.

Over Memorial Day weekend in 2002, a barge struck the Interstate 40 bridge pier at Webbers Falls, causing part of the bridge to collapse into the Arkansas River. Fourteen people died after their vehicles plunged into the water.


10:40 a.m.

The National Weather Service says it's possible that a tornado that left three people dead and one injured in southwest Missouri had a 50-mile path.

Weather Service Meteorologist Cory Rothstein in Springfield, Missouri, said a tornado touched down Wednesday night near Treece, a southeast Kansas ghost town on the Oklahoma border, and then moved northeast.

Officials said a tornado damaged homes in Carl Junction, Missouri, near Joplin and moved through Oronogo and Golden City. Authorities said three people were found dead and one injured outside Golden City.

Rothstein said a single tornado could have been on the ground for 80 minutes.

But he said the Weather Service won't know for sure whether there was one or multiple tornadoes until two teams finish surveying the storm's path Thursday.


9:40 a.m.

A local emergency management official says a few people sustained injuries from a tornado in a town southwest of the Missouri capital of Jefferson City.

Miller County Emergency Management Director Mike Rayhart said Thursday that several of the injuries in Eldon were serious enough to send people to the hospital but he did not have more specifics.

Eldon has about 4,900 residents and is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southwest of Jefferson City. The National Weather Service said it was the same storm that hit Jefferson City, though it's not clear whether it was the same tornado.

Rayhart said the tornado skipped through Eldon, damaged the business district and "tore up several neighborhoods."

Rayhart said two shelters in Eldon are housing between 60 and 70 people.


8:45 a.m.

Jefferson City hospitals report treating 19 people after a tornado hit the city overnight.

Jessica Royston, a spokeswoman for SSM St. Mary's Hospital, said seven people with minor injuries were treated there.

About 12 people suffering minor to moderate injuries such as cuts and bruises were treated at Capital Regional Medical Center.

Spokeswoman Lindsay Huhman says only one person was admitted.


8:25 a.m.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol says an elderly couple and another woman were killed when a powerful storm destroyed their homes in southwest Missouri.

Patrol spokesman Sgt. John Lueckenhoff said the bodies of 86-year-old Kenneth Harris and his 83-year-old wife, Opal, were found about 200 yards from their home outside Golden City Wednesday night.

And 56-year-old Betty Berg died and her husband, Mark, was seriously injured when their mobile home was destroyed just west of Golden City.

The storm also ripped a roof off a fertilizer plant in the area, prompting a precautionary evacuation of 1-mile radius because of a possible chemical leak.

Lueckenhoff said Golden City itself had power lines and trees down but no serious injuries. The town is about 43 miles (69.2 kilometers) northeast of Joplin.


7:10 a.m.

Damage from a tornado that struck Jefferson City overnight was concentrated in a 3-mile square area in the southern part of the city.

Jefferson City Police Lt David Williams said there are no reports of missing people in the city, but authorities will be making door-to-door checks Thursday.

Williams said no deaths were reported in Jefferson City from the storm that hit the state's capital shortly before midnight on Wednesday. About 20 people have been rescued.

The storm damaged the roof of a state labor department building but the Capitol and governor's mansion were not damaged.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson surveyed the hardest hit areas in Jefferson City on Thursday and called the damage "devastating."


6:55 a.m.

Flood warnings remain in effect for much of Oklahoma, though forecasters said many rivers have crested and water levels were beginning to drop.

More than 9 inches (23 centimeters) of rain has fallen since Sunday in parts of Oklahoma after an already rainy spring.

Near Crescent, about 34 miles (55 kilometers) north of Oklahoma City, erosion left several homes hanging over the swollen Cimarron River. One unoccupied home rolled into the river, and authorities said others could collapse.

In Arkansas, forecasters issued flood warnings along the Arkansas River because of the expected rush of water coming from Oklahoma.


6:20 a.m.

Gov. Mike Parson says storms that slammed Missouri overnight left devastation across much of the state and it was fortunate that only three fatalities have been reported.

Parson said as of early Thursday authorities are not aware of any other people missing but noted that could change as daylight arrives.

The governor credited the low fatality count to the work of numerous safety and law enforcement agencies for warning people across the state about the impending storms.

The three fatalities were reported near Golden City in southwest Missouri.


6 a.m.

Authorities say a pair of barges that broke loose on the swollen Arkansas River in Oklahoma and threatened to crash into a dam are now stuck on rocks.

The news Thursday morning comes as a relief in the small town of Webbers Falls, where emergency officials had warned of "catastrophic" flooding if the barges struck the dam. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says the barges are still tied together, and crews are working to secure them.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation says the Interstate 40 bridge and a state highway bridge remain closed over the Arkansas River at Webbers Falls as a precaution.

Over Memorial Day weekend in 2002, a barge struck the Interstate 40 bridge pier at Webbers Falls, causing part of the bridge to collapse into the Arkansas River. Fourteen people died after their vehicles plunged into the water.


5:30 a.m.

A tornado has caused heavy damage in Missouri's capital city as severe weather swept across the state overnight, causing three deaths and trapping dozens of people in the wreckage of their homes.

The National Weather Service confirmed that the large and destructive tornado moved over Jefferson City shortly before midnight on Wednesday.

Gov. Mike Parson said three people died. Missouri Public Safety said they were killed in the Golden City area of Barton County. The governor is praising first responders who have worked through the night to free people from homes that have been ripped apart in the storm.

Jefferson City Police Lt. David Williams says no deaths were reported in the capital, but 20 people have been rescued by emergency personnel.

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