Updated at 2:45 p.m. with damage estimates
ST. LOUIS COUNTY • Response teams were out in force Saturday to assess damage and provide help after a violent storm hammered the region, bringing the worst destruction in recent memory.
The National Weather Service confirmed today that an EF4 tornado, packing winds between 166 and 200 mph, touched down in Bridgeton. It also confirmed an EF1 touch-down in New Melle (St. Charles County), and an EF2 touch-down in Pontoon Beach, near Granite City. The Weather Service also believes there was a touch-down in Maryland Heights but is still taking measurements.
In St. Louis County alone, more than 2,700 buildings, including homes and businesses, suffered "noticeable damage," according to early estimates from county officials. That ranges from severe to extreme damage and doesn't include homes that may have suffered less dramatic damage. North County suffered the brunt of the hit.
"It's pretty much a straight path from Maryland Heights to the Chain of Rocks Bridge," said Rick Eckhard, spokesman for the St. Louis County Police.
Officials expressed surprise that more people weren't seriously hurt, given the scale of the storm and how far it reached across the area.
"We're calling it a miracle," said Michael Smiley, director of emergency management for St. Louis County. "We haven't had any fatalities and there were no serious injuries."
The county provided the following preliminary estimates of the number of buildings with "noticeable damage":
• Maryland Heights: 1,169. Nearly 200 homes were damaged in the David Meadows subdivision alone, with some buildings completely leveled and the roofs of several others ripped off.
• Bridgeton: 901. The Harmann Estates subdivision had about 80 damaged homes, at least half of which were major.
• Berkeley: 456. Police Chief Frank McCall Jr. said officers have been telling residents they need to clear out of badly damaged homes. "A lot of the residences are going to be condemned," he said.
• Ferguson: 34
• Dellwood: 30
• Moline Acres: 30
• Riverview: 30
• St. Ann: 20 to 30
• Bellefontaine Neighbors: 20 to 30
Meanwhile, two local highways are open again after storm damage forced closures last night. Interstate 70, between I-270 and Cypress Road, was reopened this morning after downed power lines and debris were cleared. I-270 between Dorsett Road and McKelvey Road is also open again.
Crews had to plow the debris to the side of the roadways and it will take several days to clear. Officials warned motorists not to slow to gawk at the debris, as many have been doing today.
Another concern right now is possible flooding, with lakes and rivers already cresting and rain expected to continue through Monday. The National Weather service has issued a flash flood watch for at least 24 counties in the bi-state region, including St. Louis and St. Louis County.
Outside of St. Louis County, Granite City and New Melle were among the outlying communities that suffered damage. In New Melle, 14 homes suffered minor damage and four suffered major damage, according to county officials.