Video: Debris Covers St. Louis Neighborhoods After Tornado | NECN

Video: Debris Covers St. Louis Neighborhoods After Tornado

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    NEWSLETTERS

    ST. LOUIS (AP) - Debris from splintered homes covered the ground
    in neighborhoods around St. Louis, while topped trees and
    overturned cars littered lawns and driveways. From the air, one
    home looked like a dollhouse that had had its roof lifted off.
    Looking down, the dining room table and other contents could be
    seen, damp in lingering rain.

    Amid such damage, officials appeared awed that a tornado that
    roared through the area Friday night, striking the airport and
    several nearby suburbs, hadn't seriously injured anyone.

    "It almost feels like a little bit of divine intervention when
    you look at the devastation," said Gov. Jay Nixon, who flew over
    the area to survey the damage.

    Nixon said President Barack Obama pledged federal assistance
    Saturday during a phone conversation. Some 750 homes in the St.
    Louis region were damaged, and less than 100 were uninhabitable,
    the governor said.

    Cleanup swung into full gear Saturday. With the din of chain
    saws and pounding hammers in the background, homeowners sifted
    through wreckage while crews scrambled to restore power to the
    26,000 customers still without it.

    At Lambert, workers boarded up windows and swept up glass in the
    main terminal, where the twister had torn off part of the roof and
    blown out half of the large, plate-glass windows. The domed design
    of the main terminal, dating to the mid-1950s, was the handiwork of
    Minoru Yamasaki, the Modernist architect of New York City's World
    Trade Center twin towers toppled in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

    The airport reopened Saturday night for a handful of arriving
    flights, and officials expected around 70 percent of the scheduled
    arrivals and departures to go on as planned early Sunday. The
    damaged concourse was likely to remain closed for up to two months.

    "We're not going to have the prettiest airport tomorrow, but we
    will have an operating airport," airport director Rhonda
    Hamm-Niebruegge said.

    Insurance adjusters converged in nearby Maryland Heights and
    Bridgeton, where roofers were going door to door to offer free
    temporary repairs.

    "It's crazy - like something you'd see in a movie," Tim
    Kreitler, 27, said as he helped a neighbor clean up in Bridgeton.

    Vivi Magana, 17, and her parents were trying to clean up the
    mess at their Bridgeton home, where a huge tree in the front yard
    had been pulled out by the roots. An even larger tree in the back
    was split down the middle. A sliding glass door was shattered, and
    holes were in the roof.

    Magana said the family was in the living room Friday night when
    her mother heard a roar of wind. As they rushed to the basement,
    Magana saw a lawn chair smash through the glass door. They emerged
    when the wind stopped.

     "Everyone was screaming to make sure we were all OK," Magana
    said.

    A spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines Co. said one of its planes
    was damaged when the wind pushed a conveyor belt for loading
    baggage into it. Five other planes on the ground when the tornado
    hit were OK, spokeswoman Marilee McInnis said. Southwest - the
    biggest carrier at Lambert, with 85 departures per day - canceled
    all St. Louis flights through 4 p.m. Saturday

    American Airlines, which operates out of the heavily hit main
    terminal, said four of its planes were damaged, two of them
    significantly. Crosswinds of 80 mph buffeted one plane that was
    taxiing in from a landing when the tornado hit, and that plane was
    being checked for possible damage to its landing gear, spokesman Ed
    Martelle said. American canceled 51 flights on Saturday, five dozen
    on Sunday and its first seven Monday morning.

    "We're going to have to re-create our infrastructure at
    Lambert," Martelle said. "The question is, how many additional
    gates can we borrow, because none of ours are going to be
    functional for some time."

     Hundreds of travelers were delayed, and a dozen who stayed in
    the terminal Friday night were given pillows and blankets,
    Hamm-Niebruegge said. All had left the airport by Saturday morning,
    and officials thought most were staying with friends or family.
    Still, Hamm-Niebruegge said it could have been worse - the storm
    hit on a night when the airport is generally less busy.

     Scott Truett, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said it
    was possible that a tornado that touched down near the St. Charles
    County town of New Melle was the one that ripped into the airport
    and apparently other parts of St. Louis County. If that was the
    case, the tornado sustained itself for roughly 30 miles.

    Truett said the twister followed the same track as one that tore
    up the area in January 1967, when one with winds of up to 200 mph
    ripped a 21-mile-long path of destruction across St. Louis County.
    That tornado stayed on the ground for roughly 35 minutes, leaving
    an estimated $15 million damage and killing three people.

          AP Airlines Writer Joshua Freed in Minneapolis and AP
    photographer Jeff Roberson in St. Louis contributed to this report.

          (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)