December tornadoes wreaked havoc in Southeast Missouri

The deadly storms that hit the US states of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee on Friday, December 10 revealed the criminal lack of state and federal government planning for major disasters. Ninety people have been confirmed killed by the storms, including eight Mayfield Consumer Products employees in Mayfield, Ky. And six Amazon employees at a distribution center in Edwardsville, Illinois, outside of St. Louis. , Missouri. FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell admitted what is already evident – that the increasing number and severity of major storms in the United States is the “new normal.”

Traffic moves slowly through the debris-lined streets on Sunday December 12, 2021 in Mayfield, Ky. (AP Photo / Mark Humphrey)

Five tornadoes have been recorded in Missouri ranging from EF-0 (winds 40 to 72 mph) to EF-2 (winds 113 to 157 mph) in Montgomery, Reynolds, Stone and Webster / Wright counties. In far south Missouri near Caruthersville, nine-year-old Annistyn Rackley died as she and her two sisters hid in their parents’ tub. Trey and Meghan Rackley sent their aunt a photo of their children which went viral on social media after the storm. Fifteen minutes after the photo was sent, a tornado demolished the house, sending the family tens of meters into the air onto a field. First responders found the family, including Annistyn, lying in the mud. Annistyn’s sister Avalinn, seven, told doctors: “I was flying in the tornado and I begged Jesus to take care of me, and he spat me out – and the tornado spat me out in the mud.”

Missouri Governor Mike Parson activated the state‘s Emergency Operations Center on December 10. At the height of the damage, 30,000 Missouri residents were without power, according to the power company Ameren.

After the storms of December 10 came warnings of another pattern of severe weather in the Midwest on Wednesday, December 15. Severe weather, including the risk of winds above 100 mph and tornadoes, has been forecast for an area including parts of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin. Wind gusts of over 40 mph across Missouri that day knocked over a truck while driving on a road in Springfield.

On Thursday, December 16, Parson announced that the state would seek disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to repair “significant damage to public infrastructure, homes, businesses and systems of electricity distribution “. Investigations found that the worst damage to power cooperative infrastructure occurred in the far south-eastern counties of Dunklin and Pemiscot – more than 20 large transmission towers and power lines were heavily damaged or were destroyed.

The storms were triggered by unusually warm weather in the days leading up to December 10. Several locations in the Midwest and Midsouth reported temperatures in the 60s and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures, combined with a La Niña climate regime, resulted in severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Scientists reported that tornadoes had an extremely long hold on their intensity. Tornadoes normally lose strength quickly, within minutes, when it took them several hours to begin to extinguish. The storm as a whole moved at 80 mph (50 km) per hour.

As storms began to hit the Midwest, cellphones across the region went extinct when the National Weather Service (NWS) issued a broadband warning in the region. NWS employee Jim Sieveking said: “We were issuing important tornado warnings because it was only a matter of time before one of them turned into a tornado.”

The storms have caused devastating damage in parts of Missouri. A tornado that hit St. Charles County sent three injured people to hospital; one of them, Ollie Borgmann, 84, later died. The woman and her husband, Vernon, were in their house when the tornado demolished it. The winds pushed the couple into a field a hundred yards from their home, where first responders found them.

The tornado also hit the towns of Defiance and New Melle, 40 minutes west of downtown St. Louis. It was measured at at least EF-3 in strength, meaning it had winds of 58 to 206 mph (254 to 332 km / h) and a path length of 21 miles. The main local highway, Highway F, was completely impassable after the storm due to debris, and at least two homes had their roofs ripped completely. KMOV News 4 reporter Caroline Hecker was in the area when the storms hit. According to her, she saw two houses torn from their foundations. The tornado damaged 20 cars as it traveled its way through Interstate 64.

Rich and Marsha Vance were neighbors of the Borgmanns. Their home was destroyed in the storm while they were hiding in their basement. Rich told KMOV, “Basically it looked like a truck or a train was going through our house. We were probably there five minutes, ten minutes at most. We looked up and I said, ‘There’s no more house up there.’ “

Tony Frisella, the manager of the Frisella nursery at Defiance, told Fox2Now: “I mean, the amount of trees that have been split open like toothpicks is insane.” It was a struggle for him and his assistants to find their way into his business. “It took us about two hours to clear enough trees to get to this area. And I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it.

Defiance resident Allison Laupp told KSDK News how she, her husband and their three children went into hiding when the storms hit. She is currently pregnant and expecting a daughter. Laupp recalled their heartbreaking experience while hiding in their basement. “I heard the tornado, that is, when we huddled together in a corner. We descended in a tight circle moments before impact. It was absolutely terrifying. As their ceiling and farms collapsed, the family is physically unharmed.

Neighbor Kathleen Flynn has lost her home completely. She told KSDK that initially her family weren’t in hiding, but a deep feeling told them to head for the basement. “It was like in the movie ‘Twister’,” Flynn said. “The cellar door opened, we watched the 4-wheeler go by. We huddled in a corner and tried to calm our 8 year old. A bunch of big tree branches fell on the cellar door so my husband had to push them aside and then get my daughter and myself and our dog out.

The tornado demolished a barn that housed five horses, killing two and injuring three, which were shipped to a veterinary hospital. The owner of the barn sustained non-life threatening injuries. Another tornado passed near a National Weather Service station in Weldon Spring, also in St. Charles County. The employees of the station were forced to take shelter.

Ameren crews worked to restore power to the area immediately the day after the storm. St. Charles County Manager Steve Ehlmann explained, “We want to thank Ameren and Cuivre River for coming here. The only thing holding us back on Friday night was the power lines blocking the road. We really couldn’t send our people to start clearing the roads until they got here, and they responded. Commenting on the destroyed homes in Defiance, Ehlmann said, “When the sirens go off, go to your basement. Because that’s all that’s left of this house is the basement. St. Charles County Regional Emergency Management Director Chris Hunt said, “I have spoken to residents here who have said that when they receive these alerts over the phone or when they are were hearing the sirens, they were going to their basement, they were looking for shelter and I’m sure it saved lives.

Local authorities estimate that up to ten homes in and around Defiance have been destroyed, and more than 25 homes have been severely damaged. St. Charles County has appealed for help from charities; those who have answered the call are AmeriCorps, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

The official St. Charles County Facebook page reported that the storms caused more than $ 3.4 million in damage. The county government has established a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) to serve as a local hub for local and state organizations and charities to provide assistance to victims. Consulting services were also offered.

After the storms, St. Charles County officials provided an update on the situation and the county’s response. “One of the biggest challenges we had last night (were) the utility lines,” said Chris Hunt, St. Charles County Police Captain and Regional Emergency Management Director for County of. St. Charles. “They were on the road. They limited our ability to reach some of these people who needed help. Local building code officials inspect homes to let residents know if they are habitable or not. According to St. Charles County Executive Ehlmann, there were injuries after a previous tornado when residents entered unstable buildings. “We really hope everyone appreciates this fact and respects the fact that we are doing this to protect them from injuries that might arise due to damage to the home, and it is an important part of the next phase,” said Ehlmann on this.

There was a great wave of support from individuals and charities in the aftermath of the storm. Within three days, the New Melle Fire Protection District had to refuse physical donations. “We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community,” the district said on its Facebook page. As the storm hit, they posted: “There were very few warnings about what was to come. “


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Joseph D. Whitman