30,000 without power in Missouri after storms

ST. LOUIS | A nasty winter took another turn late Sunday and early today with strong storms that damaged power lines, barns, homes and at least one St. Louis landmark. The National Weather Service suspects at least two tornadoes touched down in eastern Missouri — one near Gray Summit in Franklin County, the other in south St. Louis County. No serious injuries were reported in Missouri, but more than 30,000 homes and businesses were still without power by midmorning, according to the utility Ameren Corp. National Weather Service meteorologist Gary Schmocker said other tornadoes may also have touched down in eastern Missouri. The service was still trying to determine if damage at several locations was the result of tornadoes or straight-line winds. The storm caused severe damage to the roof of Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in south St. Louis, a popular spot for both tourists and locals. A possible tornado tore off the roof of a church near Gerald in Franklin County. Storm debris was so bad along Highway 94 near Augusta that snow removal equipment was used to clear the trees and limbs. Schmocker said the temperature in the St. Louis area dropped about 15 degrees as the fast-moving storm passed through. “You had pretty good warm, moist, unstable air over the region, then you got this upper-level system moving in that generated a lot of wind and wind shear,” Schmocker said. “It gives you tornado potential.” Two separate storms hit the Hannibal area in northeast Missouri — one just before 8 p.m. Sunday, another two hours later. Power lines were knocked over in several northeast Missouri counties and barns were damaged as wind gusts reached up to 80 mph. The weather service cited damage to a home and to several barns near Perry, about 30 miles southwest of Hannibal. Tornado activity is fairly rare in the winter, but the St. Louis area has been hit twice in the past two months. Several tornadoes touched down in St. Louis County on New Year’s Eve, damaging several homes. The state has also been hit hard by snow and ice this winter. The combination of recent rains and snow melt is causing rivers to remain high and prompting worries of flooding concerns. The Mississippi River is at or slightly above flood stage at several Missouri communities.