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Record-breaking storm hits St. Louis
by Elonka at 12:51 pm EDT, Jul 20, 2006

A powerful summer storm slammed into the St. Louis area Wednesday evening, toppling buildings, street lights, tractor trailers and hundreds of trees.

At least 476,000 customers lost power, Metrolink was shut down . . .

"This is one of the worst storms we can all remember to hit the city of St. Louis in recent years," St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said at a hurriedly called news conference.

. . .
Until Wednesday, the two biggest storms to hit the area in the last few years were in July 2004, when about 225,000 lost power, and in August 2005, which affected about 250,000. It took AmerenUE crews four days to restore power to all customers in 2004 and five days in 2005.

. . .
Skies darkened with blowing dust, shingles flew from roofs, and windows were shattered, all before a drop of rain fell. Blowing dust and debris and then torrents of rain limited visibility on roads.

. . .
Near Lambert Field, strong winds ripped off part of the terminal roof and dumped it across several lanes of Interstate 70. Power was out to all but the East Terminal. The airport was open to some flights but with heavy delays.

Drivers heading east on I-70 near the airport could see camper shells strewn across the highway, twisted sheet metal wrapped around light posts and at least one burning building east of the airport.

I was out driving during the first part of this storm. Heading west on I-70 from St. Charles. At first, it just looked like there was a large darkened patch of sky to the right, typical of a large thunderstorm to our north. A few minutes later though, as I exited 70, I looked back to see what the interstate behind me looked like, and I could no longer see it. It was completely obscured by enormous brown clouds of dust that were blowing in from the north (especially unusual, considering that our weather usually comes in from the west). I proceeded south (heading to my usual Wednesday night sushi gathering with friends), but the weather was actually overtaking me. By the time I got out of my car, there was grit everywhere, and we could smell the fertilizer, since it seemed that the high winds (80 mph) had literally ripped the topsoil off of the farm fields to the north.

Our restaurant was in the lee of a shopping center, but we opened all of the blinds and curtains to watch the storm as we ate, and then afterwards went outside and watched the lightning go on for hours. Huge spidery webs of lightning going from horizon to horizon, my guess from all the static electricity generated by the dry dust in the air.

When I finally headed home, it was a path of destruction. Downed trees, inoperative traffic signals, etc. Though personally, the biggest downer of the night for me, was when I got home and saw that power had been lost at *exactly* 7 p.m., which meant that my TiVo hadn't caught this week's episode of "So You Think You Can Dance". Anyone know where I can download a copy?

Elonka :)

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