Gov. Jay Nixon tours tornado damage in Missouri

Architect John W. Littlefield salvages 35 years’ worth of architecture plans from a storage garage Saturday in Sunset Hills, Mo., after a New Year’s Eve storm severely damaged a number of homes in the area.

Architect John W. Littlefield salvages 35 years’ worth of architecture plans from a storage garage Saturday in Sunset Hills, Mo., after a New Year’s Eve storm severely damaged a number of homes in the area. Photo by The Associated Press.

Gov. Jay Nixon spent New Year’s Day touring damage from a storm that killed four in Missouri and three in neighboring Arkansas.

Nixon started the tours around 11 a.m. in the St. Louis County town of Sunset Hills, where violent storms hit after noon Friday and left a trail of debris.

Mayor William Nolan has said cars and trucks were flipped, but no serious injuries have been reported.

Nixon was spending the afternoon in the Rolla area.

“It is destruction unlike anything I’ve seen,” said Nixon spokesman Sam Murphey, who was part of the tour. “It’s incredible.”

Both Nixon and Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe declared states of emergency that could make it easier to eventually obtain federal funding to help with the cleanup effort.

Following six fatalities in the two states on Friday, a seventh person who was injured Friday in Missouri died Saturday, said Bruce Southard, the chief of the Rolla Rural Fire Department.

The woman, identified by Phelps County Emergency Management as 74-year-old Ethel Price, was entertaining a friend, Alice Cox, 69, of Belle, Mo., in her trailer when the twister hit.

Southard said nothing was left of the trailer except for the frame, and that the twister scattered debris 40 to 50 yards from where the trailer was sitting. The women were found under a pile of debris, and Cox died Friday, Southard said.

“It’s like you set a bomb off in it,” Southard said. “It just annihilated it.”

At a farm not far away, 21-year-old Megan Ross and her 64-year-old grandmother Loretta Anderson died when a tornado hit where their family lived among three mobile homes and two frame houses, Dent County Emergency Management Coordinator Brad Nash said.

The cost of the storm wasn’t immediately known, but it was expected to be steep.

Missouri officials received initial reports from nine counties that as many as 280 homes and other structures sustained damage and that at least 50 of them were destroyed.

Especially hard hit was Fort Leonard Wood, where about 30 homes were destroyed and about 65 others were in need of repair, and the St. Louis area, where more than 100 structures were damaged or destroyed, said Mike O’Connell, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Public Safety.

The Red Cross has been giving out hotel vouchers to displaced Missouri residents, and Fort Leonard Wood officials were finding places for displaced residents to stay.

Major Gen. David Quantock, the fort commander, said it was a “godsend” that the storm resulted in only four minor injuries there. He said efforts were focused on getting families that had been displaced “back to some level of normalcy.”

The Weather Service estimates the Fort Leonard Wood tornado was an EF3 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, with winds of 136 to 165 mph. Experts who surveyed the damage in Sunset Hills determined the tornado there was potentially greater than an EF3. They were reviewing additional information on Saturday.

The service also determined an EF-1 tornado hit Dent County. And a twister of undetermined strength damaged boats and docks at Table Rock Lake.

Additional Tornado Coverage Online:

Amateur video of tornado at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo.

KY3-TV Photo Gallery

Pulaski County Daily News

Springfield News Leader

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