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Sunset Hills Tornado: A Year After

Brad Choat
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2010 Sunset Hills tornado survivor Tony Tumminia speaks as his family members and Sunset Hills mayor Bill Nolan look on. December 31, 2011 (KMOX/Brad Choat)

2010 Sunset Hills tornado survivor Tony Tumminia speaks as his family members and Sunset Hills mayor Bill Nolan look on. December 31, 2011 (KMOX/Brad Choat)

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SUNSET HILLS, Mo. (KMOX) - Where were you on the morning of December 31, 2010?

Sunset Hills mayor Bill Nolan says the owner of O’Leary’s restaurant will never forget, “Kevin testifies that the tornado hit his building at 11:46, because the clock stopped at 11:46.”

Around a hundred people gathered Saturday in Sunset Hills to commemorate the one year anniversary of the New Year’s Eve tornado that caused significant damage to businesses and homes.

Mehlville fire chief Brian Hendricks recalls his crews made it to the debris field in less than four minutes, “When I crested the hill and saw the damage and the devastation, I knew that we would be in for a long day. I knew the community would be forever changed.”

A framed remembrance of the tornado now hangs on the wall at the Sunset Hills community center. Mayor Nolan says Jim Williams of Sunset Transport found an American flag that was ripped from a pole in Watson Trail Park, “He picked it up out of the rubble and took it home. He cleaned it, picked all of the twigs and leaves and mud off of it, then dried it. He brought the flag to city hall and gave it to me on behalf of the city.”

Nolan says one of the most remarkable things about the 2010 tornado was that no one was seriously injured or killed in Sunset Hills.

Survivor Tony Tumminia’s home was blown off its foundation, “The sky was the only thing above us. Objects were flying through the air. Large items were flying as if they were weightless. Shock, fear, and prayer commanded our attention. It felt as if it would never end.”

Tumminia took time, Saturday, to thank all who helped in the aftermath, as well as those who helped beforehand, “Super special thanks to all the St. Louis area meteorologists and news media that informed, warned, and helped save untold lives, as their devotion to their profession and follow-up coverage supports victims and their families.”

Pastor Jeff Perry says more than 1,800 volunteers with Service International and other groups registered on-site to help with the clean-up.

Mayor Nolan says more than $250,000 worth of private donations has been collected to help with storm relief efforts.

(KMOX © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. )

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