Missouri Tornado Destroys 500 Cars in ‘Direct Hit’ at Chevrolet and Toyota Dealerships

What happens when an EF3 tornado hits a new car lot.

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Missouri Tornado Destroys 500 Cars in ‘Direct Hit’ at Chevrolet and Toyota Dealerships © Missouri Tornado Destroys 500 Cars in ‘Direct Hit’ at Chevrolet and Toyota Dealerships

An EF3 tornado packing winds of 160 mph tore through a General Motors and Toyota auto dealership complex in Jefferson City, Missouri on Wednesday night, damaging or destroying at least 500 vehicles and leaving brand new cars piled in crumpled heaps across the massive lot, KSHB News reports.

Part of a larger outbreak that raked across Missouri in the overnight hours, the large twister touched down around 11:45pm on Wednesday night and carved a path of destruction across the state's capital. It was only on the ground for a few minutes and likely crossed over Riley Toyota Scion and Riley Chevrolet Buick GMC in a matter of seconds. Still, the damage left behind is extraordinary.

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Photos from the dealerships, which sit right next to each other on a hilltop along Route 54, show scores of cars smashed overturned, some piled on top of each other in grotesque arrangements. Nearly every model from the affected brands is seen in ruins—once hardy Toyota Tacomas smashed in a stack, a line of newly-windowless Chevrolet Camaros, Highlanders and Envoys and Sierras all destroyed. The path of the funnel is clear in this staggering drone footage uploaded to YouTube.

There's also a 30-minute Facebook video (tragically filmed in portrait) giving a full walking tour of the decimated lot. If that seems long, watch for yourself and observe the unending stream of cars torn asunder. 

Riley Auto Group General Manager Jay Schnieders told the Kansas City Star that he arrived at the dealership just after the twister struck, expecting to survey his lots for hail damage and unaware that his world had been turned upside down. He described a descent into "sheer panic" as he realized the extent of the situation.

Between the inventory vehicles, customer cars in for service, and the buildings themselves, the dealer group estimates the tornado caused $30 million in damage. Despite the eye-popping numbers, Schnieders seemed more fascinated than anything else by the storm's raw power. He also told the Star that he hopes his surveillance cameras captured the carnage because he'd "like to know how high the trucks were in the air."

While dozens of Jefferson City residents were injured by the storm, no one was killed despite its incredible strength, and no one was on the dealership property when things went sideways. Hundreds of business and homes were damaged elsewhere in Jefferson City and across Missouri. Tragically, three people lost their lives to another twister in Golden City. 

The risk for severe weather continues across the Plains even as Riley Auto Group and Jefferson City clean up; over 100 tornados have been reported since Monday across Oklahoma and Missouri, and the National Weather Service predicts the dangerous atmospheric conditions behind this outbreak will persist into the weekend from Texas to Wisconsin.

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