Tornado strikes North County, damages homes
Emergency personnel surrounded Hazelwood, Mo., in northern St. Louis County after a tornado felled power lines and tore through houses in the area Wednesday night.
Roof tiles littered the sidewalk and an SUV lay overturned as residents watched firemen, policemen and other responders from the area survey the damage. No serious injuries were reported at the time of press.
Though the National Weather Service initially issued a tornado warning for St. Louis County at 7:32 p.m. Wednesday, high winds and heavy rain in Hazelwood around 8 p.m. caused structural damage to apartments and homes and resulted in at least one house fire. Major storm damage was also reported in southern Missouri.
Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency around 11 p.m., citing the system of strong storms and tornadoes that passed through the St. Louis area and other parts of the state Wednesday. Nixon said he plans to visit the affected areas Thursday.
“We will continue to work closely with local officials to assess damages and provide any needed assistance,” Nixon said in a statement.
Lieutenant Mike Brady, a 27-year veteran of the Hazelwood Police Department, was one of the first responders to the intersection of Howdershell Rd. and Lynn Haven Lane, where the storm was reported to have touched down. According to Brady, at least 10 different fire and police departments responded to the scene.
‘The injuries were very minor. We were very lucky,” he said.
Karen Vogel, a schoolteacher in the Hazelwood School District, was working her part-time job at Ferguson Optical in a small strip mall on the corner of Lynn Haven and Howdershell when the storm hit.
“These three windows on this side—they’re all blown out. This piece of wood came from outside, shot through here and embedded in that cabinet,” Vogel said. “It just shows the force of the winds. That was just so frightening.”
Vogel and her husband have owned Ferguson Optical for 17 years, and she said that in that time, they have experienced several severe storms.
“The Good Friday tornado [on April 22, 2011] took out, you know, all of the community that I teach for. I had friends that lost their homes, so it’s kind of like… it’s not as bad as it could be,” Vogel said. “It’s the people who lost everything, you know, they’re like, ‘Where are we going to be living?’ It’s the frightening part and the sad part. And it’s nobody’s fault, it just happens, a freak of nature.”
Angel Rolph, 16, and Evan Masterson, 19, were walking along Howdershell when they heard the sirens. Taking cover in a nearby gas station, the pair heard “popping noises” and saw sparks outside from nearby downed power lines.
“We never thought we’d be victims of a storm like this,” Rolph said.
At the time of press, the Washington University Police Department was unaware of any damage to the Danforth Campus.