Ten years later: Residents heeded warnings as Good Friday Tornado stormed across St. Louis County

Missouri

ST. LOUIS – It is one of the most memorable nights in St. Louis weather history. Ten years ago, on April 22, 2011, the Good Friday Tornado rocked suburban St. Louis with 165-mile-per-hour winds at its peak.

Touching down near Creve Coeur Lake, the tornado leveled homes and businesses in Maryland Heights and Bridgeton before setting its sights on Lambert Airport where it upended cars, damaged planes, and ripped a hole in the roof of Concourse C. Despite being on the ground for 21 miles and damaging 2,700 structures, only two dozen injuries were reported and no one was killed.

“The whole process worked from the ground up. From us in the warning process. To you in the media getting the message out, and going live, and helping people understand that this is not a normal situation, this is a big threat, and to take protective action. And people took protective action,” said Fred Glass, a senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service St. Louis office.

The Good Friday Tornado, along with the Joplin tornado one month later and other tornado outbreaks across the south, led the National Weather Service to create what are known as Impact Based Warnings. Now, forecasters try to provide additional information on what damage a storm may cause to media and emergency managers with the goal of getting the public to take action more quickly in the face of severe weather. The fact that no one was killed on April 22, 2011, is often linked to the fact that people heard the warnings and heeded them.

In the wake of the storm, Lambert Airport worked with the National Weather Service to improve their storm preparedness. Restrooms are now clearly marked a tornado safe-spaces and they now announce severe weather alerts earlier with pre-recorded statements that are ready at the push of a button. 

“It takes the angst and anxiety out of an employee who’s already taxed with having to deal with other issues from having to make those announcements live,” said Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge.

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