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Archive for May, 2013

(St. Louis) (AP) – Waves of rough weather spawning high winds and a tornado tore through eastern Missouri and the St. Louis area Friday night, downing trees and power lines and sending gamblers rushing from a casino floor.

There were no reports of injuries on a night when severe storms struck in several states. Two people died in a tornado strike outside Oklahoma City.

The storms that began pounding the state around 6:30 p.m. prompted numerous tornado warnings, with at least a few sightings, from Montgomery County about 70 miles west of St. Louis into St. Louis County.

Numerous homes in suburban St. Charles County lost roofs and walls, and roughly 40,000 electric customers throughout the region lost power. The combination of high water and fallen power lines closed dozen of roads, snarling traffic on highways and side streets.

Windows blew out of the hotel at Hollywood Casino in Maryland Heights, damaging some cars parked outside with flying debris. Metal power poles in the parking lot snapped off at the base, and emergency managers reported the casino lost part of its roof.

Gamblers reported the walls shook in the poker room. Rich Gordon, of Jefferson City, said he was on the casino floor when he heard a “boom.”

“I didn’t know if it was lightning or what, but it was loud,” Gordon said. Staff then ordered everyone off the casino floor.

Officials at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport reported damage to some auxiliary buildings, and a security guard was pulled uninjured from her damaged shack. The airfield was closed late Friday while crews cleared debris from runways, taxiways and ramp areas, although terminals and concourses remained open.

The storms were part of a system that stretched Friday from far southwestern Missouri through central portions to the St. Louis area. Heavy rain that followed several previous days of rain caused flash flooding in much of the state.

Tornado warnings were posted Friday afternoon into the evening for parts of southwestern Missouri, but no damage was reported from the storms.

(Oklahoma City) (AP) – Tornadoes rolled in from the prairie and slammed Oklahoma City and its suburbs Friday, trapping people in their vehicles as a storm swept down an interstate highway while commuters tried to beat it home.

A mother and her baby were killed, but meteorologists who had warned about particularly nasty weather said the storm’s fury didn’t match that of a deadly twister that struck suburban Moore last week. Violent weather also moved through the St. Louis area, ripping part of the roof off a suburban casino.

Friday’s broad storm hit during the evening rush hour and stuck around, causing havoc on Interstate 40, a major artery connecting suburbs east and west of the city, and dropping so much rain on the area that streets were flooded to a depth of 4 feet.

To the south, a severe storm with winds approaching 80 mph rolled into Moore, where a top-of-the-scale EF5 tornado killed 24 on May 20.

Rick Smith, the warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service at Norman, said in a text message relayed by the Storm Prediction Center that Friday’s storm was “not even close” to causing the type of destruction like the one that hit Moore.

The U.S. averages more than 1,200 tornadoes a year and most are relatively small. Of the 60 EF5 tornadoes to hit since 1950, Oklahoma and Alabama have been hit the most – seven times each.

Heavy rain and hail hampered rescue efforts in Oklahoma City. Frequent lightning roiled the skies well after the main threat had moved east. Highways and streets were clogged late into the night as motorists worked their way around flooded portions of the city.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph said troopers found the bodies of a woman and an infant near their vehicle. Randolph said it’s not known if the woman was driving into the storm when it hit around 7 p.m. Friday.

Emergency officials reported that numerous injuries occurred in the area along I-40, and Randolph said there were toppled and wrecked cars littering the area. Troopers requested a number of ambulances at I-40 near Yukon, west of Oklahoma City.

“We’re scrambling around,” said Lara O’Leary, a spokeswoman for the local ambulance agency. “There is very low visibility with the heavy rain … so we’re having trouble getting around.

Standing water was several feet deep, and in some places it looked more like a hurricane had passed through than a tornado.

In Missouri, the combination of high water and fallen power lines closed dozen of roads, snarling traffic on highways and side streets in the St. Louis area. At the Hollywood Casino in suburban of Maryland Heights, gamblers rushed from the floor as a storm blew out windows and tore off part of the roof.

Rich Gordon, of Jefferson City, said he was on the casino floor when he heard a loud “boom.”

“I didn’t know if it was lightning or what, but it was loud,” Gordon said.

In Oklahoma, storm chasers with cameras in their cars transmitted video showing a number of funnels dropping from the supercell thunderstorm as it passed south of El Reno and into Oklahoma City just south of downtown. Police urged motorists to leave I-40 and seek a safe place.

“I’m in a car running from the tornado,” said Amy Sharp, who last week pulled her fourth-grade daughter from the Plaza Towers Elementary School as a storm approached with 210 mph winds. “I’m in Norman and it just hit Yukon where I was staying” since last week’s storm.

“I’m with my children who wanted their mother out of that town,” Sharp said, her voice quivering with emotion.

At Will Rogers World Airport southwest of Oklahoma City, passengers were directed into underground tunnels and flights were canceled. However, people near the area said they weren’t aware of any damage.

Television cameras showed debris falling from the sky west of Oklahoma City and power transformers being knocked out by high winds across a wider area.

As the storm bore down on suburban Oklahoma City, Adrian Lillard, 28, of The Village, went to the basement of her mother’s office building with a friend, her nieces, nephews and two dogs.

“My brother’s house was in Moore, so it makes you take more immediate action,” Lillard said while her young nieces played on a blanket on the floor of the parking garage. “We brought toys and snacks to try our best to keep them comfortable.”

Well before Oklahoma’s first thunderstorms fired up at late afternoon, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman was already forecasting a violent evening. From the Texas border to near Joplin, Mo., residents were told to keep an eye to the sky and an ear out for sirens.

Friday evening’s weather came after flash flooding and tornadoes killed three people in Arkansas late Thursday and early Friday. Three others were missing in floods that followed 6 inches of rain in the rugged Ouachita Mountains near Y City, 125 miles west of Little Rock.

This spring’s tornado season got a late start, with unusually cool weather keeping funnel clouds at bay until mid-May. The season usually starts in March and then ramps up for the next couple of months.

(Jefferson City) – Gov. Jay Nixon tonight declared a state of emergency in Missouri as a widespread severe weather system continued to move across the state, bringing heavy rain, hail, straight-line winds, flooding and radar-indicated tornadoes. This severe weather follows several days of heavy rain throughout much of the state, leading to flooding along many streams and rivers. The severe weather threat continues tonight in parts of Missouri, and is likely to continue tomorrow for much of the state.

“Much of Missouri is experiencing dangerous severe weather tonight, on the heels of several days of heavy rain,” Gov. Nixon said. “I urge Missourians to closely monitor weather conditions, so they can take shelter or move to higher ground if needed. The risk of severe weather remains with us well into tomorrow. The state of Missouri will continue to work closely with local officials to help protect lives and property from these storms.”

The State Emergency Operations Center has been actively monitoring the storm system this week. Gov. Nixon has been receiving updates from his emergency management team, including senior officials from the Missouri Department of Public Safety, Missouri National Guard, Missouri State Highway Patrol and State Emergency Management Agency to assess the current weather situation and address local needs.

Gov. Nixon has also activated the Missouri State Emergency Operations Plan, which allows state agencies to coordinate directly with local jurisdictions to provide emergency services.

(Willow Springs) – Thursday’s storms caused a number of problems in Howell County. Ed Button has more:

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Lovelace says that crews will continue to work until roadways are clear.

(Springfield) – The storms that blew through the Ozarks Thursday produced a number of downed trees and a possible tornado near Mountain View.

Here are the official damage reports from the National Weather Service:

HOWELL COUNTY

Downed trees in Pomona were reported, including a number of buildings damaged near Hutton Valley, roughly 6 miles west-southwest of Mountain View. The NWS says a small tornado may also have formed, but at this time they are unsure. No word on any injuries.

Several large trees were also reported down in Peace Valley.

PHELPS COUNTY

Trees down on Highway H near Edgar Springs.

(Jefferson City) – The special election to fill the 8th Congressional district seat vacated by Joanne Emerson is Tuesday. Emerson resigned the seat in January to head the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The Democratic candidate seeking the office is Steve Hodges of East Prairie, small business owner and 149th District State Representative. He says he feels that rural residents aren’t fairly represented in Washington D.C.:

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Again, the special election is Tuesday and while Steve Hodges is the Democratic candidate, Jason Smith is the Republican candidate, Doug Enyart the Constitution Party candidate, Bill Slantz the Libertarian Party candidate, and Dr. Robert George is seeking the seat as a write-in, Independent candidate.

(Winona) – A resident of Winona suffered serious injuries Thursday morning after being ejected from the vehicle she was driving.

The accident happened at 5:50 AM on Route 19 north of Winona. 47-year-old Melba Shipton was taken from the scene of the accident to Mercy Hospital in Mountain View, then flown to a Springfield hospital by Air Evac.

Shipton was injured when the northbound vehicle she was driving ran off-road, hit a ditch and overturned.

(Alton) – An Alton resident suffered minor injuries Thursday evening after a two-vehicle accident near Alton.

The accident happened on County Road 309, about 3 miles west of Alton, when the southbound vehicle driven by 23-year-old Wade Croening of Alton crossed the center line and hit a second, northbound vehicle driven by 18-year-old Dylan Clark of Myrtle head on.

A passenger in Clark’s vehicle, 21-year-old Jordan McClanahan of Alton, suffered minor injuries and was taken to Ozarks Medical Center in West Plains.

(Little Rock) (AP) – Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor is preparing to launch the first campaign ads for his re-election bid, as he faces a high-dollar blitz from groups on the right and left in Arkansas.

Pryor campaign manager Jeff Weaver said Wednesday that the two-term senator plans to begin airing the television ads Friday. Weaver declined to say how much the campaign was spending on the television spots.

Weaver announced the plans shortly after a conservative group said it would begin airing $320,000 worth of television ads criticizing Pryor. Senate Conservatives Action said it would air the ads during the next three weeks in Little Rock and Fort Smith.

A gun control group is also airing ads in Arkansas criticizing Pryor for opposing an expanded background checks measure.

(Mountain Grove) – There will be a listening post meeting featuring members of U.S. Senator Roy Blunts’ staff on Thursday June 6 from 10:30-11:30AM at the Mountain Grove City Hall.

Missourians interested in sharing their questions or concerns with Senator Blunts’ staff are encouraged to attend the meeting.

Senator Blunts’ Jefferson City office also offers one-on-one service for those who have an issue with a federal agency or need additional assistance.

There will also be Listening Posts on Wednesday, June 5 from 12-1 PM at the Oregon County Courthouse in Alton, and from 2-3 PM at the West Plains City Hall.