In Cole County and Jefferson City, 611 buildings sustained enough damage during the May 22 tornado to be listed on a preliminary assessment report released Monday.
The EF-3 tornado was first reported in Miller County shortly before 11 p.m. May 22. By 11:45 p.m., it had crossed through parts of Miller and Cole counties and raked through 3 miles of eastern Jefferson City.
Data the government agencies used to help create the assessment came from multiple sources, which included Missouri Structural Assessment and Visual Evaluation (SAVE) Coalition, a group of volunteer engineers, architects, building inspectors and other trained professionals that assists Missouri State Emergency Management Agency with building damage inspections; the American Red Cross; post-disaster aerial photography and drone video review, according to Cole County Emergency Management Director Bill Farr.
EF-3 tornadoes can be deadly. They are capable of destroying trees and buildings or sweeping away unanchored homes or small vehicles.
Data collection has been ongoing since the morning after the tornado struck, Farr said.
In Cole County, 66 of 82 commercial buildings, 29 of 30 government buildings and 382 of 516 residential buildings that sustained damage were within Jefferson City limits.
The number of structures damaged was much lower than totals provided by the American Red Cross, Farr said.
The city and county won't include every property the nonprofit organization does, he said.
The government agencies list structures with damage that falls into three categories — "destroyed," "major damage" and "minor damage."
"I think we've got a really good figure of the total. What the Red Cross or others may say are 'affected areas' can be very minor," Farr said. "The Red Cross will mark a building with two or three shingles off."
As of Monday, the Red Cross had reported 1,141 structures sustained some sort of damage in Cole County, he said.
Initially, the Red Cross reported all homes its assessors had visited, according to Angie Springs, communications and marketing manager for the American Red Cross of Missouri and Arkansas.
"This included homes that had no visible damage but had received a review from our team," she said.
The organization has to log all the homes its review teams visit.
She acknowledged the nonprofit and local governments may differ on their damage assessments.
The number may continue to change as homeowners and business owners begin reaching out to the city and county for construction permits, Farr said.
It's not unusual for structures to move from one damage category to another as their owners begin uncovering hidden damage, said Sonny Sanders, Cole County director of Planning and Protective Services.
The city has already had at least one case in which a homeowner had received a green placard, indicating the building was structurally safe and could be occupied, but a deeper investigation revealed the home was "racked" — the tornado had twisted it out of square, , Sanders said.
"It wasn't obvious without measuring it. His house was actually totaled," Sanders said.
The number of people seeking building permits to repair homes and businesses has been growing rapidly, he said.
"We've had 74 from May 23 to June 30. That's actually quite a bit more than we normally process," he said.
A number of out-of-town contractors have been coming in for business licenses too, Sanders added.
He advised homeowners and business owners to be careful about getting work done. They should speak to their insurance companies. If they hire contractors, they should make certain they have business licenses and permits for the work.
Anyone getting roofing work done should make certain their contractors' work is under warranty. Even though the shingles may have a 25-year warranty, the installer has to be certified by the manufacturer for the warranty to apply.
And never pay in advance.
"We had one homeowner who paid for the project up front but did not get what they expected," Sanders said. "It's not legal to do that."