2,700 buildings in St. Louis County with serious damageST. LOUIS COUNTY • Response teams were out in force Saturday to assess damage and provide help after a violent storm hammered the region, bringing the worst destruction in recent memory.
The National Weather Service confirmed today that an EF4 tornado, packing winds between 166 and 200 mph, touched down in Bridgeton. It also confirmed an EF1 touch-down in New Melle (St. Charles County), and an EF2 touch-down in Pontoon Beach, near Granite City. The Weather Service also believes there was a touch-down in Maryland Heights but is still taking measurements.
In St. Louis County alone, more than 2,700 buildings, including homes and businesses, suffered "noticeable damage," according to early estimates from county officials. That ranges from severe to extreme damage and doesn't include homes that may have suffered less dramatic damage. North County suffered the brunt of the hit.
"It's pretty much a straight path from Maryland Heights to the Chain of Rocks Bridge," said Rick Eckhard, spokesman for the St. Louis County Police.
Officials expressed surprise that more people weren't seriously hurt, given the scale of the storm and how far it reached across the area.
"We're calling it a miracle," said Michael Smiley, director of emergency management for St. Louis County. "We haven't had any fatalities and there were no serious injuries."
The county provided the following preliminary estimates of the number of buildings with "noticeable damage":
• Maryland Heights: 1,169. Nearly 200 homes were damaged in the David Meadows subdivision alone, with some buildings completely leveled and the roofs of several others ripped off.
• Bridgeton: 901. The Harmann Estates subdivision had about 80 damaged homes, at least half of which were major.
• Berkeley: 456. Police Chief Frank McCall Jr. said officers have been telling residents they need to clear out of badly damaged homes. "A lot of the residences are going to be condemned," he said.
• Ferguson: 34
• Dellwood: 30
• Moline Acres: 30
• Riverview: 30
• St. Ann: 20 to 30
• Bellefontaine Neighbors: 20 to 30
Meanwhile, two local highways are open again after storm damage forced closures last night. Interstate 70, between I-270 and Cypress Road, was reopened this morning after downed power lines and debris were cleared. I-270 between Dorsett Road and McKelvey Road is also open again.
Crews had to plow the debris to the side of the roadways and it will take several days to clear. Officials warned motorists not to slow to gawk at the debris, as many have been doing today.
Another concern right now is possible flooding, with lakes and rivers already cresting and rain expected to continue through Monday. The National Weather service has issued a flash flood watch for at least 24 counties in the bi-state region, including St. Louis and St. Louis County.
Outside of St. Louis County, Granite City and New Melle were among the outlying communities that suffered damage. In New Melle, 14 homes suffered minor damage and four suffered major damage, according to county officials.
Storm leaves heavy damage in St. Louis regionApril 23, 2011
ST. LOUIS • The National Weather Service reports that the storm that ripped through the region Friday was the worst its seen in more than 40 years.
The last time the area saw such severe and widespread damage was on Jan. 24., 1967, when a tornado traveled 21 miles across St. Louis County following an eerily similar path.
That was the fourth-worst tornado in history to hit the St. Louis metropolitan area, according to the weather service.
"People are going to remember this for a long time," said Jim Sieveking, the lead forecaster at the National Weather Service in St. Louis.
A storm path producing tornadoes on Friday traveled from Maryland Heights all the way across the Mississippi River to Granite City, leaving a wake of destroyed homes, fallen trees and downed wires.
Its path was only about five to 10 miles off from the tornado of 1967, Sieveking said.
Lambert International Airport, smack in the middle of that path, was hit hard, losing part of its roof and seeing its windows shattered throughout the main terminal. There were multiple injuries, none serious. The airport is closed down indefinitely.
Officials plan to hold a press conference at 10 a.m. with updates on the situation there.
The weather service has confirmed tornadoes touched down in New Melle, Maryland Heights and Granite City. Survey teams are out inspecting the damage, to confirm suspected tornadoes elsewhere along that storm route.
Sieveking said they will be looking for the telltale signs: convergent patterns in the damage, twisting and turning of the tree limbs, houses removed from their foundations.
He said forecasters are confident the tornado touched down in Maryland Heights, Bridgeton and Edmundson because at those points they were actually picking up on their weather radars the debris that was swirling through the tornadoes.
This storm was far worse than the one that hammered Sunset Hills on New Year's Eve, he said. The tornadoes then were from a squall line thunderstorm. Squall lines are famous for their damaging winds but don't usually produce tornadoes — and when they do, they are short-lived, he said.
Friday was a supercell thunder storm, known for producing long-path tornadoes, hail and damaging winds.
The 1967 storm first touched down in Chesterfield and then headed northeast at 40 miles-per-hour. It was on the ground for 35 minutes, according to the weather service, and left a path of destruction ranging from 50 to 200 yards wide.
There were 216 injuries and three fatalities. Property damage was significant, with 168 homes destroyed, 258 with major damage, and 1485 with minor damage. At least 600 businesses were damaged or destroyed.
The total damage was estimated to be around 15 million dollars.
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