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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Missouri Governor Nixon Credits Storm Warnings with Saving Lives


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SUNSET HILLS  Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Saturday credited the advance warning of the storm for saving lives and preventing major injuries from the New Year's Eve storm that ripped through the St. Louis area.

At a press conference here Saturday morning, Nixon said the National Weather Service gave residents between 12 and 30 minutes of warning of the tornadoes.
Despite many homes being leveled from eastern Franklin County to north St. Louis, no major injuries were reported in the St. Louis  area.

But to the southwest of St. Louis, the death toll rose to four Saturday. Ethel Price, 69, and Alice Cox, 74, were found Friday outside their mobile home about a mile and a half north of Interstate 44 near Rolla, a Phelps County sheriff's dispatcher said. Cox was pronounced dead at the scene. Price was airlifted to the University of Missouri hospital in Columbia, where she died Saturday.

Two people also died in Dent County, just south of Phelps County.  And at Fort Leonard Wood, the damage had left 300 people homeless.

After the press conference, Nixon toured the damage in Sunset Hills along Lindbergh Boulevard where a tornado ripped through an entire city block.

The area was clogged with traffic from people who had come to observe the damage.
Mehlville Fire Protection District Chief Tim White urged people to stay away from the damage unless they had a compelling reason to be there.

Emergency responders were having trouble getting into hard-hit areas because of all the spectators, he said.
At the press conference, St. Louis Police Chief Dan Isom said tornadoes had caused the collapse of 12 buildings in north St. Louis.

Overall, about 8,000 people lost electrical power, but that number was down to 500 by noon  Saturday.
In Robertsville in eastern Franklin County, the Rev. George Fulgham, pastor of the Shiloh Baptist Church, said Saturday he was still accounting for all the members of his church.

So far, he hadn't heard of any major injuries. The storm crushed  one the church's buildings and ripped through the offices of another.

Fulgham said the church of 90 people would meet Sunday at Glad Tiddings Church in Catawissa, about four miles away.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service said Saturday that the storm contained at least six tornadoes and possibly more.

The Weather Service sent three teams of surveyors to the Sunset Hills area, north St. Louis and Robertsville to get a better picture of the damage,  meteorologist Jim Sieveking said.

The Weather Service estimated the tornado that struck Sunset Hills to be greater than EF3 on what is called the Enhanced Fujita damage scale, which means the tornado produced "severe damage" and winds around 160 mph.
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