ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis area was cleaning up Monday from damage caused by tornadoes hitting the region for the fourth time in 2 1/2 years. Amid the heartbreak was the good news: In all of the twisters, no lives were lost.
Like the New Year’s Eve tornado in 2010, the Good Friday tornado in 2011 and the twister that hit St. Louis’ famed Hill and suburban areas in April, widespread damage occurred when two tornadoes touched down in the region Friday night. And just like those previous tornadoes, no one was killed, nor even seriously injured. Experts believe that’s partly due to people heeding warnings, and partly just good luck.
“To have as many tornadoes as intense as we’ve had go through a populated area and come out with as few injuries as we’ve had, people are getting out of harm’s way,” National Weather Service meteorologist Ben Miller said. “But if you look at some of the houses that were damaged and the fact that this one and the Good Friday tornado crossed multiple interstates, there’s got to be some luck involved.”
The storm Friday night actually produced two tornadoes, one that began in St. Charles County and traveled 32 miles through parts of St. Louis County. The other started in northeast St. Louis County and went into Illinois.
The twister that started near Weldon Spring in St. Charles County caused most of the damage. It was 250 yards wide and reached wind speeds of 150 mph.
That tornado damaged hundreds of homes at least 600 in St. Charles County. St. Charles County spokeswoman Colene McEntee said 350 of those homes had major damage and many may be uninhabitable. Up to 50 have already been condemned, she said.
The tornado also damaged Hollywood Casino; tossed semi-trailers onto their sides in an industrial area of St. Louis County; and hit Lambert Airport.
It was the second time in a little over two years that Lambert was struck. An April 22, 2011, tornado caused $25 million in damage to the terminal.
This time, the tornado caused extensive damage to two aircraft hangars, three other buildings and a parking lot. Repair costs have not been determined, Lambert spokesman Jeff Lea said.
“There’s damage and costs, but the bigger picture is you’ve seen some families in the community facing a lot more,” Lea said.
The region may have benefited from the timing of the storm. The St. Charles County twister touched down around 7:50 p.m., after rush hour so people were at home. No place is more dangerous than the road when a tornado strikes.
It also helps that most homes in St. Charles County have basements. And there was ample warning: All local TV stations cut away from programming with updates on the storm.
The storm knocked out power to nearly 100,000 Ameren utility customers Friday night. By Monday afternoon, 33,000 were still without power, mostly on the Missouri side of the metro area. Ameren said most customers should have power restored by the end of Tuesday.
Tornado-ravaged areas are trying to return to normal. The tornado damaged the Family Arena in St. Charles enough that all three high schools in the Francis Howell School District postponed graduation ceremonies that had been scheduled for this past Saturday. They were held Sunday at Lindenwood University’s football field.
St. Charles County officials expect the Family Arena roof to be repaired by next weekend, when more commencement ceremonies are scheduled for other schools.
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