Spring Storms Tear Up Midwest, Claim 3 Lives in Missouri

May 15, 2009

Citizens in four Midwestern states are cleaning up after violent storms killed three people in northern Missouri, damaged hundreds of homes and left thousands without power.

Authorities reported at least two tornadoes touching down in Adair County, the first hitting Novinger just before 6 p.m. CST Wednesday. The second twister touched down minutes later just north of Kirksville, a regional agricultural and manufacturing hub that is also home to Truman State University.

The Kirksville-area tornado damaged at least 60 buildings, including a car dealership on the northern edge of town where employees arrived Thursday morning to a parking lot littered with overturned vehicles and a showroom with 12-foot-high plate glass windows completely blown away.

A couple living in a modular home near the Jim Robertson Chevrolet-Toyota dealer died when their home “just exploded” from the force of the wind, said Adair County coroner Brian Noe.

He did not release the victims’ names pending notification of family members, but said the couple had just bought the home and were newly engaged. The man is a native of Mexico, Noe said.
Don Williams rode out the storm in his basement with his wife and four children. He described a “wall of rain shooting sideways” that ripped the roof off his home.

“It just tore everything up,” he said. “It was just a blur. Insulation and trees blowing everywhere. I could see stuff just flying through my house.”

To the west, a 56-year-old Sullivan County woman died Wednesday night when her mobile home four miles east of Milan was thrown an estimated 40 feet by the storm and then collapsed, said Emergency Management director Rick Gardner. The woman’s husband, who was working in his wood shop in an adjacent building, survived.

Six people were treated for storm-related injuries at Northeast Regional Medical Center, but their injuries were considered minor.

The Kirksville-area tornado was one-half mile wide and stayed on the ground for about a mile and a half, county officials said Thursday morning. Of the 61 damaged buildings, 10 homes were destroyed and 15 others suffered major damage.

An additional 150 buildings in the county also were damaged, and that number was expected to go up.

Utility provider AmerenUE reported roughly 2,600 customers without power immediately after the storms.

In Caddo County in southwest Oklahoma, a possible tornado damaged homes and businesses in Gracemont and Anadarko, authorities said.

Dozens of inmates were evacuated from the Caddo County jail because of a gas line break, said Caddo County Emergency Management Director Larry McDuffey.

In northeast Oklahoma, a 100 mph wind gust was recorded west of the Bartlesville airport in Washington County, authorities said. The high winds downed trees and power lines, with 8,000 power outages reported at one point.

Central Indiana saw wind gusts of up to 60 mph and street flooding was reported in Vincennes, Linton and Rockville, authorities said. Utilities reported 8,000 were without power in and around Indianapolis early Thursday.

In Illinois, a range of windy storms dumped as much as 3 inches of rain within 50 minutes. National Weather Service meteorologist Ed Shimon called the accumulation “unbelievable,” comparing it to heavy rainfall in the tropics.

The storm continued in southern Illinois early Thursday, with lightning, heavy rain and strong wind gusts, Shimon said.

The latest storms come less than a week after another batch of severe weather, including at least a dozen confirmed tornadoes, ravaged parts of southern Missouri. Those storms killed four people and damaged or destroyed several hundred homes.

Associated Press writer Rochelle Hines in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.

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