A curling, fast-moving line of strong thunderstorms is moving into the metro area, which now under an expanding tornado warning. There have been several early reports of tornadoes briefly touching down.
The National Weather Service already had posted tornado warnings along a 160-mile line from Eminence, Mo., to the south, and Lousiana, Mo., to the north. Another was posted for near Ste. Genevieve, Mo., including southern Jefferson County, Mo., and Monroe County, Ill.
The posting also includes a severe-thunderstorm warning for western St. Charles County.
One tornado hit part of Sedalia, Mo., in the early afternoon, causing minor injuries and damaging several businesses. Two more were seen briefly north of of Interstate 70 near Kingdom City shortly after 2 p.m.
Another touched down briefly south of Montgomery City, Mo., 70 miles west of St. Louis, damaging a few homes, according to early reports. That storm was headed to the northeast.
The Audrain County Sheriff's office in Mexico, Mo., northwest of Montgomery City, reported a funnel in the air north of its jail shortly before 3 p.m.
There were isolated reports of large hail, including one-inch hail in Steelville, 80 miles southwest of St. Louis, and in Ralls County, near Hannibal.
Early reports from Sedalia were of damage to several buildings and a subdivision and minor injuries to mroe than a dozen people. The 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.
The storm near Kingdom City damaged a few homes and downed trees and power lines. It was heading to the northeast.
Ben Miller, a meterologist with the National Weather Service office in Weldon Spring, said the storm line reaches far to the south and will come through the metro area. All of eastern Missouri and southern Illinois are under a tornado watch.
"The national storm prediction center has us in a high-risk area, and that's pretty significant," Miller said about 2:20 p.m. "This looks like the real deal."
The Weather Service bulletin warns of a likelihood of heavy thunderstorms, with some dropping hail the size of golf balls and a change for "a few violent long-track tornadoes." Those are tornadoes that remain on the ground for extended periods.
Miller said the next round will be stronger than the storms that passed through the metro area this morning. Those brought almost 1/4-inch of rain.
A tornado watch has been issued until 9 p.m. for most of the St. Louis region, including St. Louis city, St. Louis County, St. Charles County.
The best guess is that the storms will arrive about 4 p.m. and stick around for several hours. Rain and thunderstorms will continue off and on all night Wednesday and in to the morning hours, but the severe threat will be gone by about midnight Wednesday, Miller said.
"The chances of having a particular tornado in the metro area are relatively small, but the chances of having a thunderstorm that has a potential of producing a tornado is a real threat today," Miller said.
The system moving in today could be similar to the Good Friday storms, which produced devastating tornadoes in the St. Louis area.
"Unfortunately, this year has been a real eye-opener for everyone," he said.
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Western Missouri already has seen strong storms.
The Pettis County Sheriff says a tornado has caused significant damage in Sedalia. Sheriff Kevin Bond told KSHB the tornado was on the ground for "a good amount of time."
He said the tornado started 3-4 miles south of Sedalia and tracked just southeast of downtown Sedalia. He said houses and businesses have been damaged. He had no information on possible injuries.
Aerial footage from Pettis County showed tractor-trailer tipped over, trees uprooted and some buildings that had sustained structural damage. The Sedalia Democrat was reporting that a school bus barn and the buses inside it were damaged.
Emergency services asked authorities to block off the Brentwood neighborhood in southern Sedalia because of people flocking to the area to see the heavy dama.
Earlier, the National Weather Service said at least two tornadoes it described as very weak and brief touched down and lifted near Kansas City, Mo. Meteorologist Julie Adolphson says there were no immediate reports of injuries or significant damage resulting from the tornadoes reported in suburban Overland Park, Kan., and near Harrisonville, Mo., south of Kansas City.