ST. LOUIS – Debris from splintered homes covered the ground in neighborhoods around St. Louis, while topped trees and overturned cars littered lawns and driveways. From the air, one home looked like a dollhouse that had had its roof lifted off. Looking down, the dining room table and other contents could be seen, damp in lingering rain.
Amid such damage, officials appeared awed that a tornado that roared through the area Friday night, striking the airport and several nearby suburbs, hadn’t seriously injured anyone.
“It almost feels like a little bit of divine intervention when you look at the devastation,” said Gov. Jay Nixon, who flew over the area to survey the damage.
Nixon said President Barack Obama pledged federal assistance Saturday during a phone conversation. Some 750 homes in the St. Louis region were damaged, and nearly 100 were uninhabitable, the governor said.
Cleanup swung into full gear Saturday. With the din of chain saws and pounding hammers in the background, homeowners sifted through wreckage while crews scrambled to restore power to the 26,000 customers still without it.
At Lambert Field, workers boarded up windows and swept up glass in the main terminal, where the twister had torn off part of the roof and blown out half of the large, plate-glass windows. The domed design of the main terminal, dating to the mid-1950s, was the handiwork of Minoru Yamasaki, the Modernist architect of New York City’s World Trade Center twin towers toppled in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The airport reopened Saturday night for a handful of arriving flights, and officials expected around 70 percent of the scheduled arrivals and departures to go on as planned early today. The damaged concourse was likely to remain closed for up to two months.
“We’re not going to have the prettiest airport tomorrow, but we will have an operating airport,” airport director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge said.
Insurance adjusters converged in nearby Maryland Heights and Bridgeton, where roofers were going door to door to offer free temporary repairs.
“It’s crazy – like something you’d see in a movie,” Tim Kreitler, 27, said as he helped a neighbor clean up in Bridgeton.