Storms move through Missouri, with possible tornado at Fort Leonard Wood & weather blamed in death
11:01 AM, Dec 31, 2010
10:34 PM, Dec 31, 2010
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Missouri - (AP) -- Tornadoes fueled by unusually warm weather pummeled the
South and Midwest on Friday, killing at least six people and
injuring dozens more across Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois.
Forecasters said storms could hit along a stretch from near Chicago
to New Orleans later in the evening as New Year's Eve celebrations
Three people died in the northwestern Arkansas hamlet of
Cincinnati when a tornado touched down just before sunrise, and
three others died when a storm spawned by the same weather system
ripped up the Missouri countryside near Rolla. A number of storms
were also reported in the St. Louis area.
The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said storms later
Friday could do more damage from northern Illinois to the Gulf of
Mexico as communities prepare to mark the start of the new year.
Forecasters posted tornado watches for the region that were set to
run until 8 p.m.
"It sucked me out of my house and carried me across the road and
dropped me," Chris Sisemore of Cincinnati told The Associated Press
on Friday. "I was Superman for a while. ... You're just
free-floating through the air. Trees are knocking you and smacking
Sisemore said he tried to crawl under his bed and cling to the
carpet, fearful a nearby pecan tree would fall into his home. As he
nursed cuts, scrapes and bruises to his arms, knees and back, he
recalled opening his eyes as he flew because he didn't believe he'd
"I wanted to see the end coming. You're only going to see it one
time and I thought that was it," he said. "It takes more than a
tornado to get me."
In south-central Missouri, 19-year-old Megan Ross and her
64-year-old grandmother Loretta Anderson died at a Lecoma farm
where their family lived among three mobile homes and two frame
houses, Dent County Emergency Management Coordinator Brad Nash
A mother and an infant in the trailer were able to run to a
sturdier home, he said.
"We found debris from one of the trailers a mile away," Nash
said. "One of the frames of the trailer was 15 feet up in a tree.
All the frames were all twisted up," and refrigerator from one of
the mobile homes was found 200 yards away, he said.
Another woman was killed north of Rolla, not far from Lecoma,
when a tornado destroyed her home, according to emergency managers
in Phelps County.
In Arkansas, Gerald Wilson, 88, and his wife, Mamie, 78, died in
their home and Dick Murray, 78, died after being caught by the
storm while milking cows, Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder
Sisemore's mother, Margie Sisemore, said her son thought a tree
had come crashing through his window.
"He jumped under his bed, said it grabbed his legs -- took him
up through the ceiling and he landed over yonder," she said,
gesturing across the street near where the Wilsons died.
At Fort Leonard Wood, a storm damaged 20 homes in a neighborhood
that houses officers. The fort directed essential personnel to
report for duty and that all nonessential personnel should stay
away. Spokesman Jeff S. Maddy said many from the fort were
traveling for the holidays.
"The good thing here is if you had to have a storm like this, it
couldn't happen at better time because we have the holiday season
and so many people are visiting family and friends away from Fort
In Rolla, Judy Welch, 57, said she called her husband after the
storm passed to tell him their home was gone but that she was able
account for their 13 dogs, including nine German shepherds. A
number of cats that had scurried away hadn't returned.
"I kept praying to God. The house shook so bad, the windows were
bowing and then going back to normal," Welch said.
Overnight storms damaged buildings and boat docks around Table
Rock Lake in southern Missouri, leaving several boats adrift after
wrenching them from their moorings. Several homes and businesses
were damaged in the St. Louis County town of Sunset Hills, and a
church was damaged in nearby Fenton.
In Illinois, a tornado may have touched down in Petersburg,
northwest of Springfield, where about two dozen homes were damaged
-- some severely -- and a woman was injured when her car was struck
by a falling tree branch. Her injuries weren't believed to be
Several flights to and from the Northwest Arkansas Regional
Airport at Highfill were delayed or canceled Friday morning until
crews could clear debris littering the runway.
The region has been bracing for severe weather for much of the
week. Gulf moisture riding southerly winds pushed temperatures into
the upper 60s and 70s on Thursday -- ahead of a cold front expected
to drop temperatures into the teens by Saturday morning.
"This storm system has been showing significant signs that it
could develop," said Chris Buonanno, a meteorologist at the
National Weather Service in North Little Rock who was monitoring
the storms as they moved deeper into Arkansas. "Conditions are
favorable for seeing a severe outbreak.
"In the winter you don't always have the instability" that would
allow tornadoes to develop, Buonanno said. "This time, we have the
While the spring brings most of the region's tornadoes, violent
weather at this time of year isn't unheard of. A February 2008
outbreak killed 31 in Tennessee and 14 in Arkansas, and in January
1999 two separate outbreaks across the South killed 18, including
seven in Arkansas.
A year ago, there were no tornado deaths nationwide between Oct.
9, 2009, and March 10, 2010.
Buonanno said there appears to be some association between
changes in South Pacific Ocean temperatures and changes in the flow
of the jet stream in the central part of the United States, causing
an uptick in violent weather.
Friday's tornado fatalities are the first in the nation since
Sept. 16, when a woman hit a falling tree while driving in Queens,
N.Y., and a man was killed in his home at Belleville, W.Va. The
deaths push this year's count to 42 nationally, and to 5 in
Arkansas. The deaths in Missouri were its first of the year.
Associated Press writers Margaret Stafford in Kansas City, Mo.,
Sophia Tareen in Chicago and Kelly P. Kissel in Little Rock; and AP
photo stringer April Brown in Cincinnati, Ark., contributed to this