Another day of tornadoes in U.S. Midwest, but St. Louis spared
Jim Salter and Ken Miller, The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, May 21, 2019 8:21AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, May 21, 2019 11:14PM EDT
ST. LOUIS -- A dangerous storm system in the Midwest produced dozens of tornadoes for the second consecutive day Tuesday, demolishing a racetrack grandstand and damaging buildings in a wild animal park in Missouri but sparing St. Louis, the biggest city in its path.
Two deaths, both in Missouri, were blamed on the severe weather that started in the Southern Plains Monday night and moved to the northeast. Missouri and parts of Illinois and Arkansas were in the crosshairs Tuesday. By Wednesday, the storm will move into Great Lakes region, where it will weaken. But another storm system was gathering steam for later this week, potentially covering an area from Texas to Chicago, according to the National Weather Service.
The skies grew dark over St. Louis before nightfall Tuesday and a tornado warning was issued for the city and surrounding suburbs, but the storm passed overhead without producing the rotation that often spawns tornadoes and the city was mostly spared except for heavy rain.
"The danger has passed for the St. Louis area," said National Weather Service St. Louis meteorologist Jason Gasselin.
The weather service Storm Prediction Center website listed 37 reports of tornadoes on Tuesday in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.
A tornado early Tuesday near Tulsa International Airport injured one person and damaged about a dozen homes. The airport was unscathed, but passengers were moved into shelters for about 30 minutes and several flights were delayed.
Tulsa Area Emergency Management spokeswoman Kim MacLeod said crews rescued a man who was pinned under a tree.
Storms Monday evening flipped campers at Lucas Oil Speedway in Hickory County, Missouri, injuring seven people, four of whom were taken to hospitals. The speedway's grandstand also was destroyed, forcing cancellation of racing this weekend that was expected to draw about 3,000 campers.
Another twister Tuesday afternoon hit a drive-thru wild animal park in southern Missouri. Webster County Emergency Management Director Tom Simmons said buildings were damaged at the Wild Animal Safari near Strafford, but there were no reports that people or animals were injured. All of the animals were accounted for.
Simmons said about a half-dozen homes were damaged in the county. A tractor-trailer was blown off a highway.
Heavy rain was called a contributing factor in the deaths of two people in a traffic accident Tuesday near Springfield, Missouri. The Missouri State Highway Patrol said an SUV skidded across the centre of U.S. 160 and struck a tractor-trailer, killing both people in the SUV, Brandon Beasley, 23, and his 24-year-old wife, Christin, of Willard, Missouri.
Missouri authorities also reported several water rescues from flash flooding. Among them was an 18-year-old woman who was swept off a flooded road near Joplin Monday and stranded overnight until nearby residents heard her yelling. She had only minor injuries.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson declared a state of emergency, citing worsening flood concerns and soil inundation, as well as forecasts calling severe storms and possible tornadoes into Wednesday morning.
Flooding was also an issue in Oklahoma, where the Oklahoma Department of Transportation shut down Interstate 40 in El Reno, about 25 miles (40 kilometres) west of Oklahoma City, because of high water. The National Weather Service says up to 5 inches (13 centimetres) of rain had fallen since Monday. In El Reno and Stillwater, home to Oklahoma State University about 55 miles (88 kilometres) northeast of Oklahoma City, emergency responders rescued people from their homes.
With a potentially dangerous storm bearing down on St. Louis, baseball's Cardinals were taking no chances, calling off a Tuesday night game against the cross-state rival Kansas City Royals.
Heavy snow melt from the north and significant spring rains have led to waves of flooding in Missouri, and President Donald Trump on Monday issued a major disaster declaration for 13 counties in the state damaged by March flooding.
The Missouri River is expected to reach major flood stage by the end of the week at Jefferson City, Hermann, St. Charles and elsewhere. The levee near Jefferson City's airport holds back water up to 30 feet (9.14 metres), Cole County Emergency Manager Bill Farr said, but the National Weather Service expects a crest of 32.3 feet (9.85 metres) Thursday. Sandbagging won't help because the levee is too long, he said.
"We're just keeping our fingers crossed," Farr said.
Miller reported from Oklahoma City. Associated Press writers Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Mo.; Hannah Grabenstein in Little Rock, Ark.; and David A. Lieb in Jefferson City, Mo., contributed to this report.