Times and Climate Change
Death toll rises to 7 in US Midwest Storms, Tornadoes
By the CNN Wire Staff
January 1, 2011 11:43 p.m. EST
'Everything we owned is gone'
* NEW: Missouri's governor declares a state of emergency
* Red Cross begins recovery help, preps for more damage
* Resident recalls being thrown from house
* National Weather Service issues more tornado watches
Sunset Hills, Missouri (CNN) -- An orange X was painted on homes
destroyed in a Missouri town during a series of fast-moving
Midwest and Southern storms that left at least seven people dead,
dozens injured and even more without a home.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Saturday toured a neighborhood in
Sunset Hills, a St. Louis suburb.
"The devastation in this neighborhood was complete," Nixon said.
"Many of the houses we saw that were standing had the orange X on
them, which means they're going to knock them down, not even try
and repair them. Bottom line (is) significant property loss."
Residents from Mississippi to Missouri spent the first day of the
New Year assessing the damage and sifting through piles of debris.
Three people died in the small northwestern Arkansas town of
Cincinnati, which reported power outages after the strong storm
went through, said Ann Upton, Washington County's emergency
Two additional fatalities occurred in a trailer in Dent County,
Missouri, according to Mike O'Connell of the state department of
The storm also struck a trailer near Rolla, Missouri, about 106
miles southwest of St. Louis, according to the governor's office.
One person died Friday and a second occupant, an 80-year-old
woman, died of her injures Saturday, O'Connell said.
The storm injured residents and destroyed some 25 homes in Phelps
County, home to Rolla, after it earlier left more than a dozen
people hospitalized in northwestern Arkansas, medical officials
"As soon as I shut the door everything started rumbling underneath
me," Rolla resident Jason Stevenson told CNN affiliate KPLR. "The
whole house looked like it imploded. I got picked up and down at
least three times I know of before I come to a slamming halt up
against a small little tree in front of the house."
Michael Spencer, a relief worker with the American Red Cross, said
some residents in Arkansas, Missouri and Mississippi already were
working on their recovery plan.
"It's been just a little bit over 24 hours and families are just
beginning to pick up the pieces of their lives again," Spencer
said Saturday from Cincinnati, Arkansas. "The roads are littered
with power lines, there's tons of debris in fences and trees," he
said, but residents are making their way to shelters to get and
More than 30 people were gathered at the Central United Methodist
Church of Cincinnati on Saturday morning to meet with Red Cross
workers, Spencer said. Similar efforts are under way in Missouri
and Mississippi, he said.
As those states began recovery, forecasters warned of more
potentially severe weather elsewhere. The National Weather Service
issued a tornado watch for eight counties in Alabama and three
counties in Florida on Saturday. The watch extends to 5 p.m. CST.
"Unfortunately, this storm system is not letting up and we are
dispatching additional Red Cross teams as the storms continue to
plow across the country," Spencer said.
In Arkansas, six homes and four chicken production facilities were
destroyed, while five homes suffered moderate to heavy damage,
said Matt Garrity, Benton County's manager of emergency services.
A fire station, three buildings and one store were also damaged,
said Garrity, and an airport that serves northwestern Arkansas was
closed due to debris in the area.
"We are in part of tornado alley," he said. "So even a small storm
does a lot of damage."
In Mississippi, the storm system knocked out power to nearly
20,000 homes in the central part of the state, said Mara Hartman,
a spokeswoman for Entergy Corporation.
Elsewhere, the storm caused injuries and damage in Pulaski and
Laclede counties in Missouri, knocking out power at Fort Leonard
Wood, a U.S. Army post that took a direct hit from a suspected
tornado, according to Laclede County Emergency Management
spokesman Gail Teter.
Four people at the base were treated for minor injuries after the
storm hit, the army said. The tornado cut through several miles
from the training areas into where families live.
CNN affiliate KMOV on Friday broadcast images of heavy damage --
including destroyed homes and overturned vehicles -- in Sunset
Hills, about 15 miles southwest of St. Louis.
"It's causing havoc," said Sunset Hills police spokeswoman Donna
Nixon declared a state of emergency in Missouri Saturday and
toured a neighborhood where a suspected F-3 tornado struck, though
there were no serious injuries.
"One young family, two young adults and a 9-year-old, scurried
into their basement and hid in a cubbyhole and their entire house
was blown away," he told CNN. "If they hadn't gone down there they
certainly would have had very serious injuries, if not death."
The storm also left heavy structural damage to buildings in its
wake -- including a popular shopping center and Catholic church --
in the town of Fenton, some 18 miles southwest of St. Louis, said
Fenton Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Heidbreder.
In the nearby town of Ballwin, police spokesman Jim Heldmann said
the storm caused heavy damage to homes and buildings, but no
injuries were reported.
CNN's David Ariosto, Mark Bixler, Reynolds Wolf, Tom Laabs, Erica
Henry, Aaron Cooper and CNN Radio's Shelby Lin Erdman contributed
to this report