When Collin left for work this morning, I told him I hoped we didn't both end up regretting it. A tornado watch had been issued early. Though tornadoes here are rare in the winter months, they tend to be much more violent than their summer counterparts when they do occur.
That was the case Friday.
Only days ago, we had snow on the ground. The roads were icy. Friday, the thermometer climbed to almost seventy degrees. And the storms arrived....
It was late morning when the first signs of trouble came. Collin and I had gone out for breakfast. He'd headed off to work afterward and I stopped at Walgreens before going home. I was three blocks from home when the warning sirens started to wail. Sam was home alone and terrified of storms, so I ran. As soon as I got in the door, I turned the TV on. A tornado had been spotted at Pacific...Eureka.... It was headed toward Fenton. So was Collin.
Local news crews were on the move. Meteorologists remained on the air all day. A possible tornado had been spotted at Fenton just after Collin would have arrived there. I managed to get him on his cell. He was all right. He'd been at Kohl's--customers had been herded to the back wall, the safest part of the store.
There was damage to the church just across the highway, as well as some nearby homes. But Sunset Hills, just a few miles to the northeast, took the brunt of it. Two dozen homes and a strip mall got the most damage. Vehicles were overturned, windows broken. At O'Leary's, a restaurant co-owned by actor John Goodman, diners took refuge in the coolers and bathrooms. At nearby Massage Envy, a woman who'd been on the table when the storm hit admitted all she could think of was, "They're going to find me in a tree naked."
Displaced residents are now staying at local hotels. Restaurants in the area provided meals for them and the first responders. When 2011 arrived at midnight, no one was watching the ball drop. Sunset Hills was still without electricity. A section of Lindbergh Boulevard was closed until this morning.
The National Weather Service determined that the tornado was an EF3 with sustained winds of 165mph. That no one was killed or even seriously injured indeed qualifies it as a New Year's Eve miracle....