MADISON COUNTY, Mo. – Located about 90 miles south of St. Louis, Fredericktown appeared to have sustained the worst of the damage from the strongest tornado to hit the region Sunday evening.
A National Weather Service survey team reported at least an EF-3 tornado hit the area, pending further investigation. The Enhanced Fujita Scale goes from 0-5, with 0 being the weakest.
EF-3 tornados have wind speeds of up to 165 miles per hour.
The view of widespread damage on the outskirts of town from Bommarito Automotive Group SkyFox was staggering. Up close, the views on the ground were heartbreaking.
A home just behind 72 West Motors RV/Camper sales off of Highway 72 had its roof torn off. Five people were inside hoping to make it out alive. Fortunately, they did.
“As soon as I said, ‘I think we need to go downstairs,’ it felt like a bomb going off behind me, which was the roof getting ripped off and falling in and all the attic insulation blinding everybody,” said A.J. Smith, standing outside the roofless house. “As this was happening, I ran into my dad’s room. I shook him real quick. He jumped up. I just scooped him up like a little baby and ran downstairs.”
They huddled near a basement support beam, he said.
The entire fleet of 50 new campers at 72 West Motors was damaged or destroyed; campers worth $40,000 to $100,000 or more.
Across the highway and nearby fields, the Black River Electrical Cooperative was also wiped out, along with a couple more homes and businesses.
Most of Black River’s repair trucks were idled awaiting a damage assessment, Monday, as opposed to be used to restore customers’ power.
“We’re used to that (role) but not this (being a tornado victim),” a spokesman said.
Enough trucks remained in service and/or were brought in from the other providers to have power restored to about 5,000 of 6,400 customers who lost service as of 3:00 p.m. Monday, he said.
No one was hurt.
No one was hurt at 72 West Motors either.
“I’ve never been through it. I’ve seen this stuff on TV. I’ve always felt bad for the families. I never thought I’d be one of them,” said Gary Stephens, owner of 72 West Motors. “I know what it feels like to be one of them and it’s not a very good feeling. “There’s always a bright side you know. I’ve got so many friends that’s come by here, so many people, customers drove plum from Springfield. Nobody got hurt. All my family is good and all my workers. My workers mean a lot to me.”
Homes and businesses within the Fredericktown city limits suffered very little damage but most were without power.
They are on the municipal power grid and not Black River’s.
It could be days before everyone’s power is restored, according to authorities.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Lt. Michael Lynch said as of late Monday night there was no curfew set in place for Fredericktown. He said it is not safe for people to be out on the roadways at night if they don’t have to, because there is still debris in on roadways.
Lynch added that authorities have rolling street closures to allow linemen and crews room to work while they restore power.
“The fact that nobody was hurt, best-case scenario for a bad situation, we had no reported injuries, from that we had one reported afterwards and it was relatively minor considering everything,” he said.
Lynch said there was one report of a minor hand injury after, but he believes it was an injury from cleaning up or being in the rubble.
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service is still looking for damage. They are asking the public to tweet pictures of it to them with the hashtags #mowx #ilwx. They are using the images to ask people if they would like to participate in a damage survey.