April 22, 2011    


My son, Ryan and I would play the waiting game today as we watched the radar and tried to figure out where the best cell would be.  We saw a cell go up over Sedalia, MO and with a bit of convincing by Terry Schenk, we headed out toward that cell.  Originally, the cell was moving northeast, so we headed west on I-70 out of St. Louis hoping to get a glimpse of it.  As we continued to drive west, the cell began turning more toward the east potentially putting the back of the cell south of the Missouri River.  That was not good news as we traveled west.  Then we heard there was an accident on I-70 in Montgomery County that had the Highway blocked both ways and also found out the Highway 47 bridge that would take us south over the Missouri River was closed for construction.  That left us no options but to turn back around and get south of the Missouri River via St. Louis County.  So back we went toward St. Louis again to get over the Missouri River and get back out west. 

We grabbed I-44 and headed west to Gray Summit.  We are never happy with traveling I-44 as the terrain through that area is less than optimal.  As the storm pulled into the Gray Summit area, the storm was hanging a bit further north than we had anticipated.  We made the decision to bolt back east and grab a good position in the Chesterfield Vally to watch it go by.  So back we went and took up our position in the valley with a good view to the north.  We ran into our fellow St. Louis chaser friend, Nick Pavlovits sitting and watching the storm.  From a distance, we had a good view, although a bit distant, of the storm as it went by.  We noticed some rotation and on several occasions, a funnel dip its finger from the cloud, but could not verify any touchdown.  The storm continued to track east.



Area of Rotation

We made our way east on I-44 to get north on I-270.  This is where things got the most interesting.  Being kept up to date by Nick, Terry, and Greg Guise, we made it up to the crossing point just behind the tornado that was now being reported as solidly on the ground.  Approaching the I-270 just south of the I-70 interchange, the tornado crossed in front of us.  We knew it wasn’t too far in front of us, so we were very cautious.  As it turned out, little did we know the EF3/EF4 tornado crossed just ahead of us.  This brought the electrical wires down across the interstate and causing all traffic to come to a complete standstill effectively ending our chase for this day.  Then we began hearing the reports of the tornado doing damage at the St. Louis airport only a mile away from us.  For the next 3 hours, we were stuck on I-270 parked as nobody was moving.  Car engines were turned off and people were walking around and talking to each other on the highway.  It was a bit of a party atmosphere.  Finally, the electric crews were able to pull the wires off of the road about 11:00pm.  Unfortunately, we were in the far right hand lane forcing us to make that right turn onto I-70.  Bad mistake as this highway was also closed and cost us another 2.5 hours more in practically park mode.  From the tornado at 8:05, it took us until 1:57 to pull into our own drive way.








It was an awful feeling knowing this storm was heading right for my house, my parent's house and many other family and friends knowing I was stuck and couldn't go anywhere.  The cell phone lines were clogged for both incoming and outgoing phone calls and I estimate for every 25-30 tries to get a call out, we'd be successful only once.  I never made contact with any family member until after 10:00pm even though the tornado went through the neighborhood at about 8:15pm.  Ryan and I arrived home at 1:57am after being stuck on the Interstate for over 5.5 hours.  Normally that is a 15 minute drive from where we were.

Below is the NWS survey map of the damage path.  The tornado damage path crossed just to the north of my home by a couple houses.  The middle of the tornado path was on the north side of Chambers Road, just 8 houses away.  My parent live just north of me had the tornado pass to their south by only 10-12 houses.  On the north side of the storm, the debris ball deposited alot of trash in the parent's neighborhood.  I've been picking up shingles, siding, and other debris before cutting the grass for all of my lawn customers up in that neighborhood.  I spent several hours in my own yard cutting up the tree limbs that were broken off during the storm in my own yard.  Griffith Elementary School, where my father, I, and my kids attended, which sits up on Chambers Road, was hit again like it was in 1967 when I was in the 3rd Grade.  The Elementary School is closed again due to the damage with the students being transported to other area school buildings, again, just like back in 1967 when I was there.




My house in relation
 to the Damage
 Damage Path through the neighborhood
Radar capture of the circulation as it went through my neighborhood



The next day, we traveled through the neighborhood and took some pictures of the tornado damage. 










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