St. Louis Public Radio News
4:24 pm
Wed May 7, 2003

Storms Hit St. Louis Area, 2 Dead in S. Illinois

St. Louis, MO – Trees are uprooted, power lines knocked over, and homes damaged after a number of storms moved through the southern part of the St. Louis area Tuesday night.

No major injuries were reported in Missouri, but two deaths in southern Illinois are being blamed on the storm.

The storm hit hard in Jefferson County. In De Soto, the roof of a junior high school gymnasium collapsed. "There were some students who had returned from a track meeting who were in the building," said the school's superintendent Terry Noble. "Our custodian heard the sirens in town and got on the intercom and announced to the students and the faculty about it, and they got down to the basement of that building."

Everyone in the school escaped unharmed; much of Jefferson County was without power throughout the night; classes in De Soto have been canceled for the rest of the week. The last day of class is scheduled for May 30 in the district of about 2,800 students.

Elsewhere in De Soto, on Main Street, an 18-wheeler was tipped on its side. At the high school football stadium, an electronic scoreboard was tossed from one end of the field to the other.

But there were just a few injuries reported, and those are not serious.

Governor Bob Holden declared Jefferson County a disaster area Tuesday night and a handful of National Guard troops in.

The storm also brought flash flooding, which closed Interstate 44 near St. Clair, Mo. in Franklin County for about an hour.

Earlier in the evening, the storm sent state lawmakers scurrying to the basement of the State Capitol when it moved through Jefferson City.

The new round of storms came on the same day that President Bush declared disaster areas in 39 Missouri counties that were hit by Sunday's storms.

That declaration makes people in those areas eligible for federal aid, including rent money for temporary housing, grants and loans to rebuild businesses and homes, as well as money to help pay medical costs.