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Tornadoes Hit St. Louis and Close Its Airport


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ST. LOUIS — A fierce storm carved a path of destruction here late Friday, downing trees, destroying homes and tearing parts of the roof off Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, forcing it to close.


“All airline operations have ceased,” said Jeff Lea, an airport spokesman. Airport officials said they hoped to be operating at 70 percent of the usual capacity on Sunday.


Half the windows were blown out in one section of the airport, and large chunks of the roof were peeled away by the wind in another. Debris was scattered around the airport. Nine tornadoes were reported in St. Louis alone.


“Glass was blowing everywhere,” Dianna Merrill, 43, told The Associated Press. Ms. Merrill was waiting in the airport when the storm struck.


“The ceiling was falling,” she said. “The glass was hitting us in the face. Hail and rain were coming in. The wind was blowing debris all over the place. It was like being in a horror movie. Grown men were crying. It was horrible.”


Despite the destruction, there were no fatalities or serious injuries resulting from the storm.


“We were very fortunate on that end,” Mr. Lea said.


On Saturday morning, the closing of the St. Louis airport had not caused delays elsewhere in the country, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration said.


“I haven’t seen any issues yet,” said Tony Molinaro, a spokesman for the F.A.A. “It’s early morning, it’s a Saturday, and everything is lighter on a Saturday. It’s also not a hub airport.”


The St. Louis airport has about 250 departures each day, about half the departures it had 10 years ago, Mr. Lea said. Last year, it was the 57th busiest airport in the country.


Cleanup was under way on Saturday. Mr. Molinaro said one of the airport’s runways was operational, as was the flight tower.


The storm that shut down the airport caused thunderstorms from Texas to Ohio, and 24 tornadoes were spotted in five states. But St. Louis and the surrounding areas were hit hardest.


“Certainly yesterday was a pretty high-impact event,” said Chris Vaccaro, a spokesman for the National Weather Service. “I can’t recall the last time an airport was hit, and hit this severely.”




FONTE: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/24/us/24stl...tml?_r=1&hp

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