Good Friday Tornado

Another slow day at the office….it really goes in waves and I actually am glad for things to be a bit calmer around here after the last couple of weeks.  I want to share a bit of info regarding the Easter Weekend storms that affected the St. Louis area and my family specifically. On the night of April 22nd the area was hit by one of the strongest tornado’s on record in since sometime in the 60’s. It was an odd day for sure….I remember sitting in my office during the first round of storms in the afternoon and looking outside at all the streetlights beginning to turn on around 10am. I even thought to take a picture of it because it felt so weird.
 That was obviously a sign of things to come.  All day the weather was very ominous…. Hail and high winds throughout the area. Not really that unusual for this time of the year…but strange none the less.
We had planned to do a cook for Easter this year and instead of the usual ham fixings we were going to smoke a shoulder and a brisket for the first time. That occupied my time at home after work. I loaded Sam in the car and we went to Costco to purchase the goods.  As we were returning to the car to load up all the crap it began to rain on us…so I quickly got situated and we headed home.
 Not too long after that Ali got home and we flipped on the news. Big storms headed toward the area….again not unusual.  They were talking about a tornado in New Melle (about 7 miles south of my parents) and moving NE setting sights on our area. The storm was also spitting out hail the size of baseballs. Great.  The sirens began singing their all-to familiar song and we began to move to lower ground. This I think was the second or third time this year we have had to do this due to weather so we were prepared with flashlights, blankets, the essential jug of milk and some snacks for Sam.  All this was around 7:30pm. I don’t know why but kept running upstairs to listen to the TV and what not and grab the occasional look out the windows. Nothing was really happening around us other than heavy rains and thunder and lightning. On my last trip upstairs I noticed the major storm was churning just to the south of our house and we were in the clear. At about 8 pm we all came back up and put Sam to bed for the night. I remember sitting on the couch watching the news and catching something about a reported tornado at Lambert airport. I immediately called my mom to see if she talked with the multiple family members close by and she was in a state of hysteria.  She had just got off the phone with my brother who was apparently not paying close attention to what was happening and had just hung up the phone to take cover in his single level cinder block house.  I immediately called my brother and was not prepared for what I heard on the other line. He answered within the first ring.  I obviously have known him my entire life and not once have I ever heard the fear and panic that came pouring out of the speaker during that call. He stated that he was back up on his feet looking out the front window; there were fires and power lines popping all around his house. His car that had been parked literally a few feet from the window he was standing in was no longer there.  He could not see anything up the street towards my grandmother’s house and was afraid to go outside due to the power lines. Everyone else’s condition at that point was not known.  To clarify, everyone else being my Grandmother, Aunt, Uncle and Cousin who all live on the same block.  Most of these homes are owned by my Grandma.  I called my mom back and told her Bill was OK and then hung up the phone, grabbed my keys and headed out the door.  
I made it from my house across the Missouri river in record time and got a call from Ali letting me know that it appeared that Billy made it out and everyone that was home was accounted for so I slowed down and took a breath.  After a few detours I made it to the East end of Garfield where you could not go any further. There was what was left of a building blocking the road. Parked my car and grabbed my flashlight and began walking west.  I can only describe what I saw as extremely upsetting. Of course everyone was somewhat in a state of shock.  There were large trees on houses, houses completely gone, windows busted out and strange enough something’s were left completely un disturbed.  As the night went on…family members started showing up and we all stood around taking it all in into the early hours in the morning. I eventually left around 3am and went to get some sleep.  The light of day would reveal the full scale of damage.
Below are some pictures of all the carnage.

As expected….Saturday was a long day. I want to give big time thanks to the guys at American Signs and Electric and Premier Signs Inc (I believe they are both owned by the same guy, Ken Newbern). They donated not only their equipment (cranes and saws) but their time, fuel and sweat to remove the biggest red oak tree I have ever seen  in my life allowing us to get a tarp on my grandma’s house to prevent further water damage. Also big thanks to local business owner Rich and his son along with Denny that helped with landing and cutting the debris.  I would also like to give big thanks to the crews of Premier Restoration Services

It’s going to take some time to get back to anything that closely resembles normal for my Grandma, Aunt & Uncle, Brother and Cousin but no one was hurt and most defiantly could have been a lot worse

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