Cleanup Begins After Confirmed Tornado Hits Hazelwood

HAZELWOOD, MO (KTVI) – Parts of a Hazelwood, Missouri, neighborhood are in shambles after it was hit hard by a tornado. The National Weather Service confirms it was a tornado, probably an EF-2. The path cut by the tornado could be seen from the air Thursday.

The storm left behind significant damage. Hazelwood’s mayor is calling it the worst storm he’s ever seen in the city.

The most severe damage is in the area of Howdershell and Lynn Haven Lane. Several homes on Lynn Haven felt the full force of the powerful storm.

“It’s just boom! And it was done.  It was just that fast. I didn’t have time to think what happened. I didn’t know what happened,” said Gary Buneta. His home on Lynn Haven Lane and Howdershell had its roof ripped off by the storm.

Gary was inside his home when the storm hit. He was thrown by the force of the winds.

“I got up. I walked over to the door and looked out my front door and you could just see the wind and feel it coming. I shut the door and started walking this way and I got out right about where he [our photographer] is now and everything just went. It threw me in there into the kitchen against that wall. And the debris that is there is what was laying on me. And then it was over,” explained Buneta.

The storm left its mark on many other houses as well.

Hazelwood Mayor Matthew Robinson says around 100 homes in the Howdershell and Lynn Haven area were either damaged or destroyed by the storm.

Huge trees were uprooted; some fell into homes.

Residents say it all happened incredibly quickly.

“We got into the front basement part of our house and I mean things just sounded like they just let loose up above us. Things were hitting the house and it was like a train whistle going over us. It lasted for a like a couple of minutes and then it was done,” said resident Kim Stevens.

Kim’s neighbor Sonny Martin added, “I took a look out the back door to make sure what was coming and I seen trees in the air flying. I don’t even know how I got downstairs, I got down there so quick.”

The nearby Teson Gardens apartments sustained serious damage as well. Several roofs were torn off buildings there.

Gary and others are just thankful nobody was seriously hurt or killed.

“I feel very lucky. Like I say this is a material thing, it can be replaced. I can’t. So we started out one time, we can start out again,” Buneta reflects.

Several thousand customers are still without power in the Hazelwood area. Ameren officials say they have about 900 workers in the St. Louis region restoring the power as quickly as possible.

The Hazelwood school district cancelled classes Thursday. A spokesperson says they will make a decision about Friday classes Thursday night.

Wednesday night, rescuers gathered at Shackelford Road and Patterson Road to assess damage and help any residents in need. An emergency command center is now operating at the corner of Lynnhaven and Howdershell Road.

A Red Cross emergency shelter was opened at Armstrong Elementary School on Howdershell Road in Hazelwood for those dealing with storm damage Wednesday night, but was moved because the school was operating on backup generator power.

Six people stayed at the shelter Wednesday night.

The new Red Cross emergency shelter is at the Hazelwood Civic Center, 8969 Dunn Road. Shelter and warm food is available for those affected by the storm until other arrangements are made.

Red Cross Damage Assessment volunteers are canvasing Hazelwood neighborhoods affected Thursday and Casework Outreach teams will go door to door to help residents in need.

Thursday morning, Mayor Robinson said most damaged properties had been checked and no deaths have been reported.

Power is out in many parts of Hazelwood and Florissant, power lines are down, tree limbs litter the roads, roof debris and strewn everywhere, and trees were felled by winds clocked over 100 mph.  According to Ameren Missouri, just before 6:00 a.m., more than 10,000 in that area were still without power. Ameren says they have about 900 workers repairing lines in damaged areas Thursday.

Metro has also rerouted service in some north St. Louis County areas because of debris and downed power lines:
#44 Hazelwood
#45 Ferguson Florissant
#4174 New Halls Ferry Express

Metro also says they’re unable to serve Patterson/Lindbergh and Call A Ride customers will be contacted if Metro can not access their streets.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency in the St. Louis area due to the storm damage.

Area roads have debris slowing traffic.

Related:

Interactive radar: FOX2Now.com/Radar

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