By BILL DRAPER
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A cluster of powerful thunderstorms spawned tornadoes that touched down Wednesday along the Missouri-Kansas border, sending Kansas City office workers scrambling for cover and damaging homes and businesses in Sedalia, to the east.
By late afternoon, the storms had moved across Missouri and were causing damage on the eastern side of the state.
Law enforcement agencies reported one home was destroyed in the rural Carter County town of Ellsinore, where trees and debris were blocking U.S. 60 in southeast Missouri.
The abundance of reported tornadoes had meteorologists sending out warnings at a frenzied pace.
"Everybody's working as fast and furious as possible," said Beverly Poole, the chief meteorologist at the National Weather Service's office in Paducah, Ky., which covers southeastern Missouri and southern Illinois. "This is just a wild ride."
Poole said of special significance was that in many cases, there were reports of debris falling from the sky as far as 10 miles away from the actual center of the storms, demonstrating "just how severe it is."
"It's just that that debris is being taken into very high levels and being spit right out," she said.
Poole said the storms were coming in waves "because the atmosphere is so unstable," pummeling southeast Missouri's Butler and Ripley counties along the Arkansas line at least three different times.
Sirens began blaring in the Kansas City metropolitan area around 11:30 a.m. as dark storm clouds made their way north toward the city. At least two weak tornadoes touched down in or near the suburbs of Overland Park and Harrisonville, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or significant damage, meteorologist Julie Adolphson said.
The tornado warnings produced a great deal of anxiety less than a week after more than 120 people were killed in Joplin by a monster EF-5 tornado on Sunday. All across Kansas City, workers in high-rise office buildings took cover as the storm front rolled through and broadcast reports urged people to get to a safe place.
In Sedalia, 75 miles east, a tornado cut through the south of the city, damaging several homes and businesses and staying on the ground for some time before finally making its way northeastward, Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond said.
Fifteen people were treated at Bothwell Regional Medical Center, all of them for minor injuries, said hospital spokeswoman Sarah Nail.
Bond said the recent deadly tornado in Joplin may have made Sedalia residents more cautious when warning sirens sounded Wednesday and may have spared them from more serious injuries.
"Considering the destruction that occurred in Joplin - being that we're in tornado alley and Sedalia has historically been hit by tornadoes in the past - I think people headed that warning," Bond said "And so, I think that helped tremendously."
Storms moving through the central U.S. have produced several tornadoes and killed at least 14 people over a two-day period.
Associated Press Writers Chris Blank in Sedalia, David Lieb in Jefferson City, Jim Suhr in St. Louis and Dana Fields in Kansas City contributed to this report.