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St. Louis area homes damaged

Tornadoes, severe storms damage airport, nearby homes

ST LOUIS (UPI) | April 23, 2011

A violent storm damaged the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, forcing its closure, wrecked dozens of homes and injured several people, officials said.

Friday night's wind, hail and rain storm broke windows and heavily damaged the airport's concourse roof, forced the closure of nearby highways and generated reports of unconfirmed tornadoes, CNN reported Saturday.

Four people were taken to hospitals from the airport, but there were no serious injuries or fatalities, officials said.

Some flights bound for St. Louis were diverted to Kansas City, while other planes remained on the tarmac. Witnesses said they were thrown against the walls inside the airport when a strong gust of wind blew the airport doors open, shattering windows.

"We'll work on this 24 hours a day until we get this airport back in shape. But it's going to be a matter of days rather than a matter of hours," said Rich Bradley, chief engineer of the city of St. Louis.

St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch was in the airport baggage area when the storm hit and saw it blow doors off their hinges.

"It was literally over in 10 seconds," Fitch said.

Carol Lawrence was in the baggage carousel area when the storm struck.

"It rushed through the door and threw everybody against the wall," Lawrence said.

Metro train service from St. Louis to the airport was suspended after the storm hit and Metro officials warned that bus service in north St. Louis was hit or miss because of downed power lines and trees.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency, saying the storms caused significant damage as they moved west to east across Missouri.

An estimate of damage was not immediately available.

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