Tornado hits Ferguson, North St. Louis County, at 8 pm on Friday, April 22, 2011.

This is unrelated to mogasp’s normal topics but is an event worth recording, since it (fortunately) doesn’t come along every day. The tornado which hit Ferguson where I live was an EF1 or an EF2, according to a detailed federal NOAA report on-line, Good Friday Tornado Event April 22 2011. and affected a number of people that I know personally.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also had extensive coverage, including a story about the five tornadoes which touched down that day, changing people’s lives permanently but causing no reported fatalities or serious injuries: National Weather Service confirms five tornadoes in Good Friday storms

My closest encounter to a similar weather-related event was in September 2005 when something I’d never heard of before – a “straight line wind” – hopscotched down the road where I live, fortunately doing no damage in my yard but taking down two mature oaks just six houses down which demolished part of the neighboring house, rendering it unlivable for several months. Below are some photos I took of one of those downed oaks and the tree’s owner surveying the damage to his neighbor’s home. The photos below were taken the day after the storm.

The tree owner (foreground) surveying the damage to his neighbor's house after his tree was felled in a violent storm September 19, 2005.

Downed oak embedded in neighboring house in Ferguson, after a straight-line windstorm

Another tree fell onto a house where it knocked the resident out of his chair and sent him to the hospital. On that occasion we were without power for four days.

Turning to the recent storms, the sirens started wailing shortly before 8 pm on Friday, April 22, 2011, and the local TV weather reporter urged viewers in our area to take shelter. My wife and I responded by heading to a small windowless corridor in my case, and a bedroom closet in my wife’s case where we stayed until it appeared safe. (Our house is built on a slab so basement shelter wasn’t an option.)

In fact, our subdivision was spared from any damage except for one tree nearby being uprooted, due to a combination of the rain-saturated ground and the wind, (plus, perhaps, that it had been struck by lightening some years earlier!).

Storm-felled oak

In addition, although we lost electricity it was restored surprisingly quickly: by about 10 am the following morning.

What we didn’t know was that an EF2 tornado on the Enhanced Fujita Scale had roared through Ferguson less than a mile further south, cutting a destructive path through a mainly residential area bordering downtown. The map below shows the approximate path of the tornado. This was actually part of a 21 mile long tornado touchdown which had been an EF3 or EF4 in Bridgeton (EF3 wind gust = 136-165 mph; EF4 wind gust = 166-200 mph), about 6 miles to the west, where many homes on Beaverton Drive, Bridgeton, MO 63044, were completely destroyed. Amazingly, no deaths or serious injuries were reported. (Please see photos and stories published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.)

Approximate path of tornado in Ferguson and some damaged locations
Click to enlarge

Storm-damaged Little Caesars Pizza, 220 N Florissant Rd., Ferguson

My wife ventured out the next day (Saturday, April 23) and walked down to where the tornado had struck. She reported that the sidewalks were impassable in places due to so many downed trees. Plus, there were lots of gawking motorists who had come to see the destruction, hampering cleanup efforts. A photo she took that day shows the Little Caesars Pizza place less than a mile away: the roof had been ripped off and pieces of it were wrapped around nearby splintered trees. Someone was busily salvaging contents when my wife arrived. (I explored the area two days later and took additional photos which I’ve pasted below.)

Ferguson Christian Church: long shot from helicopter shown on News 4. Please click to enlarge

Featured in media reports was the Ferguson Christian Church, 303 N Elizabeth Ave., also on the tornado’s path and a little east of Little Caesars.

At left are aerial TV shots from the KMOV Channel 4 story, Widespread damage in Ferguson, Missouri, by reporter Bryce Moore, broadcast the day after the storm. The rows of brown wooden pews can be seen in the close-up below.

Ferguson Christian Church close-up of storm damaged roof. Please click to enlarge

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch carried detailed stories on Sunday, April 24, two days after the storm. The following photo appeared on page A7 of the printed newspaper:

Larry Doggett, left, and his daughter Joni Bellinger salvage a bible from the debris in the sanctuary of the Ferguson Christian Church. (The bible appears to have water dripping from it.) David Carson

The photo accompanied an article by reporter Jesse Bogan titled
Believers see lessons in storm still available on-line. The above photo had this caption:

Saturday April 23, 2011–Larry Doggett, left, and his daughter Joni Bellinger salvage a bible from the debris in the sanctuary of the Ferguson Christian Church after a tornado ripped the roof off the church on Friday night. “We had plans for Easter and God had other plans” said Bellinger. Thirty-one people who were watching Passion of the Christ at the church took shelter in the basement, hiding under tables and in the bathrooms, as the tornado slammed into the church. No one was seriously hurt in the incident.

A St. Louis Post-Dispatch video interview with Joni Bellinger is posted on YouTube: Joni Bellinger talks about how tornado ripped church apart

Below are selections from photos I took on Monday, April 25, 2011, after some clean-up had occurred and the roads were clear of gawking motorists.

Robert with car totaled by tornado in his driveway. Please click to enlarge

Robert posing in front of his lightly-scathed house. The pieces of red aluminum were blown into his front yard from Little Caeser's destroyed roof. Please click to enlarge

My first visit was to Robert living directly in the tornado’s track. Amazingly, despite his car in the driveway being totaled by a neighbor’s tree limb, his house suffered relatively little damage, mainly a small hole in the roof and the loss of part of his gutter on the front.

Tornado-toppled tree on Nick's wife's car

That was in contrast to both his immediate neighbors, whose homes suffered so much storm damage that Robert said they had been condemned.

At 125 Royal Ave., Nick Kasoff and his family suffered a mixed fate.

Their home was spared when a large tree was blown down in their front yard, although the storm knocked out power for three days.

Correction from Nick Kasoff: “We were without power for two days, not three. I was very impressed at the speedy response by Ameren to this disaster.”

However, the tree landed across his wife’s car parked in the driveway, totaling it, and also on his detached garage roof, badly damaging it and coming within inches of Nick’s prized BMW Mini.

Gamma at work while large tree still rests on garage roof

Nick said he wasn’t sure that Gamma Tree Service would be able to prevent the tree from collapsing onto his car during their efforts to remove it. (See photo at the end of this blog for a postscript .)

I also went to Little Caesars and took additional photos showing the serious damage the building had suffered.

Contrast a photo of the building taken a few years earlier with the mangled remains of the roof after the tornado ripped most of it off, scattering it into adjoining trees and neighborhood yards.

Little Caesars Pizza, Ferguson, before tornado damage

Little Caesars, April 25, 2011, looking south

Little Caesars: view looking north

On Tuesday, a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story by reporter Kavita Kumar featured a photo of owners Doyle and Joy Beck surveying the damage to their Little Caesars on Florissant Rd. near the major Airport Rd./Hereford Rd. junction. The photo caption accompanying the story noted that thieves had already stolen the copper from the air conditioner.

Please click the headline Businesses scramble to save stock, income to read the online story from which the following is excerpted.

4/25/11 Monday Ferguson Doyle and Joy Beck check out the damage to their building in Ferguson that was heavily damaged by the tornado Friday. One half of the building they rent to an insurance agent and the other half is their Little Ceasar’s Pizza business. The tornado blew the roof and the air conditioning unit off the building. Thieves have already stolen the copper from the air conditioner.

Little Caesars owners, Doyle and Joy Beck, survey the damage
J.B. Forbes

Postscript: I stopped by and visited Nick Kasoff while bicycling home on Tuesday, May 3. The tree had been successfully removed without it collapsing onto his BMW Mini inside his garage but when we peered inside to see the damage large roof timbers were resting on the car and it was clear that the building would have to be dismantled with great care if the car was to avoid being seriously damaged or even totaled.

Nick Kasoff standing outside his wrecked garage

3 responses to “Tornado hits Ferguson, North St. Louis County, at 8 pm on Friday, April 22, 2011.

  1. Martin, I’m glad you were not hit directly, and I wish no one had been–Dave

    Thanks, Dave. These natural disasters can really ruin one’s life in a hurry. But even those resulting from human behavior can too, e.g. being the victim of a motorist driving drunk or inattentively. I find that even a passenger in the car with me when I’m driving is a distraction.

  2. Perhaps God listened to Mr Repace and was simply clearing the air? All humor aside. Looking at all the damage it is a wonder no one was seriously hurt or killed. Property can be repaired. You were all very lucky.

    Marshall P Keith

    mogasp reply: Thanks. I don’t perceive this having anything to do with the smoking issue, including me or Mr. Repace. It may have been part of the increase in violent weather predicted by climate change scientists. Residents of Joplin, Mo., which was hit last Sunday, May 22, by a category 5 tornado, which even tore the bark off trees, were not so lucky.

  3. Sorry MoGASP, I have to look your comment “It may have been part of the increase in violent weather predicted by climate change scientists.” Like the smoking bans the activist started with a preconceived notion and manipulated the science to suit the agenda. Prior to getting caught cooking the science and having to admit there hasn’t been any warming for the last 15 years they change the name from global warming to climate change and then go on to claim that they predicted this all along.

    Just like smoking ban ativist. When the so alleged toxins in tobacco smoke dont rise to the level to be a health risk, the activist turn to some mythical, unproven synergistic effect.

    Marshall Keith

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