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St. Louis residents clean up, repair Saturday's storm damage

St. Louis residents clean up, repair Saturday's storm damage


UPDATED at 4:30 p.m. with new photos.

St. Louis residents continue to clean up today in the aftermath of storms that swept over the metro area early Saturday evening.

In Maryland Heights, Mayor Mike Moeller, a resident of Wooded Valley Court, was among those whose property suffered hail damage.

Hail broke windows in all three of his vehicles. Moeller suspects the barrage of hail also damaged his home's roof.

"It sounded like 40 football teams up on the roof running around," he said.

Moeller and neighbors spent part of Sunday gathering broken tree limbs leaves.

"We're all out with our leaf blowers and rakes," Moeller said. "It's Mother Nature. What are you going to do?"

On Ritter Drive, just west of Overland, the hailstorm that grew "larger and larger and larger" shattered skylights, damaged gutters and dented siding at the home of a retired couple, Henry and Marge Gross, said their son, Mike Gross.

"We got pummeled with the hail," he said. "If it got hit, it got ruined."

Gross said he and his father covered the broken skylights with tarps in case of more rain.

The storm hit just as the couple, who are in their 70s, arrived home, their son said. Henry Gross barely got inside the garage but the storm trapped his wife in their car, which was parked in the driveway. She waited for the hail to stop before getting out of the vehicle.

"Just the sound was horrific and she was traumatized," Mike Gross said.

After the storm passed, the Grosses found their Cairn terrier, Todie, hiding in an upstairs closet.

"The dog was the smartest one of the bunch and went to an interior space," Mike Gross said.

About 9,000 Ameren Missouri customers lost electricity at the height of the storms late Saturday, said Trina Muniz, a utility spokeswoman.

About 2,700 customers -- most of them in a section of north St. Louis that includes parts of the Ville and Lewis Place neighborhoods -- remained without power this afternoon.

A stepped-up tree-trimming program began after a severe ice storm and a major thunderstorm in 2006 appears to have led to reductions in outages during subsequent storms, Muniz said.

"We have seen a dramatic improvement in reliability since the 2006 storms," she said.

Only about two dozen Ameren Illinois customers remained without service this afternoon, a spokesman said. On Saturday, about 5,000 customers, nearly all of them in St. Clair County, lost power.

In Granite City, Jerry's Cafeteria was open today despite hail damage Saturday to the downtown business's roof. At the height of the storm, baseball-size hail dented cars of customers and employees.

"All of our vehicles parked in the parking lot were damaged," said Amanda Lour, daughter of Jerry Roderick, the cafeteria's owner. "A couple of windows were broken out."

Granite City police said hail broke windows of cars, homes and businesses across southern parts of the city.

State Farm, one of the St. Louis area's largest insurers, is still determining the storm's impact as people steadily call in claims.

State Farm spokesman Jim Camoriano urged policyholders to make temporary repairs, such as covering up damaged windows with tarps.

"Keep receipts (for the temporary material.) We can reimburse for those costs," Camoriano said.

"Also watch out for fraudulent contractors," who typically appear during these disasters, he warned.

Still, the wet weather forecast may tempt some homeowners to take their chances.

There is a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms later this afternoon, with the percentage rising to 50 percent tonight, according to the National Weather Service. 

And there will be no respite on Monday, with showers and thunderstorms likely.



ST. LOUIS • Strong, sudden winds blew over a large tent Saturday afternoon at a tavern south of Busch Stadium, injuring about 100 people, five of them seriously. One man who was inside the tent was stricken and died at a hospital, officials said.

The tent was set up as a beer garden behind Kilroy's Sports Bar, 720 South Seventh Street. The storm wrecked the tent and blew it against a railroad trestle next door.

Authorities said 17 people were taken to hospitals. Five were admitted as patients and listed in serious condition Saturday night. The rest were treated at the scene, mainly for cuts and bruises.

"I thought a train fell off the track," said Art Randall, owner of Kilroy's. "We all ducked for cover. Everything was going sideways. I had metal chairs ripping across the beer garden."

Deputy Fire Chief John Altmann said he did not know the cause of death in the fatality. Officials did not release the victim's name or age.

Building commissioner Frank Oswald said the city issued a permit for the Kilroy's tent on April 11 and inspected it about two days later. Oswald said the tent was supposed to withstand winds as strong as 90 mph.

The National Weather Service reported peak winds at St. Louis Downtown Airport, across the Mississippi River in Cahokia, at 42 mph during the storm. Oswald said he had no indication of the cause of the failure but said the city would investigate.

The incident happened about 3:50 p.m., when the first of several waves of strong storms blew through the area. The first storm hit about an hour after the Cardinals game ended.

A second round of strong thunderstorms, striking about 6 p.m., pounded many areas with large hail, according to the National Weather Service. Maryland Heights police said they received many reports of vehicle windows shattered by hail. The Weather Service said reports of 1¾-inch hail were widespread and listed rainfall through Saturday night of 1¼ inches at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

At Kilroy's near Busch, witnesses said the incident lasted only seconds. They said a sudden gust lifted the tent up, sending metal poles flying. Patrons rushed to help each other, Randall said, including one man who administered CPR to another who had suffered a head wound.

"People were pushing and shoving," said Christy Eilermann, 42, of St. Louis. "The wind just picked up, and they started dragging people inside."

Several area fire departments responded, including Shrewsbury, Clayton and Richmond Heights, Altmann said. All told, 11 medic units took part, he said.

During a press conference at the scene, about four hours later, Altmann estimated that as many as 150 people were under the tent when the storm struck. He said he did not know why the tent failed, but he said inattention to weather reports may have added to the injuries.

"The music was loud, people had been, you know, in attendance at the ball game all afternoon, and I don't think they were aware of the seriousness of the situation," Altmann said. "I wish people would pay attention to the warnings and keep an eye on the sky."

The storms that struck with hail about 6 p.m. had peak winds of 53 mph, also reported in Cahokia, according to the National Weather Service.

At 6, half an hour before the start of the Blues playoff game, fans at Scottrade Center were directed to leave the concourse area, lined with large glass windows, and head into the inner bowl till the storm passed through.

Trees were uprooted in several areas, including south St. Louis and Webster Groves. High winds knocked down power lines and limbs in O'Fallon, Mo. In Brentwood, power was out after a transformer blew, and at the Whole Foods, customers were herded into a back room.

Other storms struck later Saturday, mainly to the south of St. Louis. In Monroe County, hail of 1½ inches was reported, the Weather Service said.

Tim O'Neil of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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Jennifer S. Mann is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Related to this story

Waves of strong storms ripped through the St. Louis area Saturday, leaving behind windshields smashed by hail and trees uprooted by high winds.

Building Commissioner Frank Oswald explains the requirements for large tents.

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