DEFIANCE, Mo. – St. Charles County officials provided an update Saturday afternoon on the damage from a tornado that touched down near Defiance Friday night.
The tornado touched down near Route 94 and Highway F. Tornado warning sirens went off in St. Charles County shortly after 7:30 p.m. After detecting debris on the radar, St. Charles County officials contacted highway departments, utility companies, and public safety partners.
“One of the biggest challenges that we had last night (were) the utility lines. They were over the road. They limited our ability to get to some of these folks that needed some assistance,” said Chris Hunt, St. Charles County Police captain and director of St. Charles County Regional Emergency Management.
A woman died and her husband was injured after the tornado demolished their home, located near Stub Road and Highway F, according to Dan Casey, fire chief for the New Melle Fire Protection District. The elderly couple was on the first level when the tornado hit.
The strong winds carried them to a field about one hundred yards away where they were found by first responders. Both were taken to a hospital where the woman later died and her husband sustained injuries.
Additionally, the tornado caused a barn to collapse off Highway F where five horses were trapped. Two horses died and three were taken to the veterinary hospital. The barn owner did sustain injuries, but was not taken to a hospital, Casey said.
“I can tell you from looking at the damage, I’m extremely surprised that we didn’t have more injuries or more catastrophic damage,” Hunt said.
St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann said there have been no additional fatalities and injuries reported by people going into their homes, which was a big issue from the last tornado.
He added that building code officials have been inspecting homes, letting homeowners know if it is safe for them to return or not.
“We really hope everybody appreciates that fact and will respect that we’re doing that to protect them from injuries that might occur due to damage to the home, and that’s an important part of the next phase,” Ehlmann said.
About five to 10 houses were completely destroyed and at least 25 houses were severely damaged, according to Casey. However, the county’s community development team and the assessor’s office are evaluating damaged homes and will have official numbers by the end of Saturday, Hunt said.
Highway F is only open to local traffic.
St. Charles County has asked assistance from AmeriCorps and the Salvation Army, the America Red Cross, among other organizations, which are expected to arrive Saturday.
“I encourage the public to go to our Facebook page where you can find resources that can assist you,” Hunt said.
Those who were in the path of the tornado are still without power, Hunt said, and Ameren and Cuivre River Electric Cooperative crews are working to restore power. It is not known when everyone’s power will be restored.
The National Weather Service has found EF-3 damage from Friday night’s tornado.
Storm survey update: We have found at least EF-3 damage 2.5 miles west of Defiance on Highway F. NOTE – this survey is still ongoing and the rating for this tornado may increase. To follow along as we rate damage – check out this website: https://t.co/yMJcRHs2ya pic.twitter.com/F9C9UbfgiW— NWS St. Louis (@NWSStLouis) December 11, 2021
The National Weather Service’s survey of the tornado is ongoing and its rating may increase, according to a tweet.
The tornado did not affect the Christmas candlelight event at the Daniel Boone Home.
People who took shelter after hearing the warning sirens and receiving phone alerts are what saved lives, according to Hunt.
“Collectively, as a group from public safety, I can not stress enough that we are pleading with the public to seek shelter when they hear these warning sirens or get these alerts on their phones,” he said.
“I personally talked to several residents down here that said when they got those alerts on their phones, or when they heard the sirens, they went to their basements and they sought shelter, and I’m confident that it saved lives.”
More information will later be announced about how people can help and where donations can be dropped off.