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One Year Later: New Year's Eve Tornado Touchdowns | News

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One Year Later: New Year's Eve Tornado Touchdowns
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Severe Weather roared across the St. Louis area on New Years Eve, December 31st, 2010.  The National Weather Service confirmed twelve tornado touchdowns. The strongest tornado occurred in Sunset Hillls in St. Louis County, an EF3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.  One person was killed and six were injured by this tornado. 

The second strongest tornado occurred in Robertsville, MO in Franklin County and was rated EF2. Tornados also touched down in North St. Louis, Ballwin, Washington, Cedar Hill, and rural Crawford County in Missouri. In Illinois, twisters were confirmed in Lebanon, Mozier, and Greenville.

New Year's Eve 2011 marked the first anniversary of those tornados. A crowd gathered in Sunset Hills to commemorate not so much what the tornado destroyed, but rather, all that it could not destroy. A flag unveiling and applause Saturday morning at the Sunset Hills Community Center, marked the day

A tornado turned an entire neighborhood into an empty field.  You need look no further than the park across the street from that field to find reasons to be grateful.  3 and ½ year old Natalie Dale’s grandmother could have died, asleep on the upstairs sofa when it hit.

“She heard the sirens.  She said she woke up and kind of dosed back off to sleep.  When she finally woke up and really realized what was happening, she was going down the steps and saw everything swirling,”said Natalie’s mother, Lynn Anne Dale, of her own mother’s survival.  “She was pretty lucky because it kind of skipped over their house...count your blessings.  Enjoy your family.  Don’t take anything for granted because it can be gone in a second.”

It was 11:46 on that Friday New Year’s Eve morning.  More than 160 buildings were damaged; close to 20 homes destroyed or condemned.  

“The sounds were beyond description.  The pressure on our ears was almost unbearable.   Very abruptly all the windows in the house gave way and imploded.  The sky was the only thing above us,” said survivor Tony Tumminia. 

He told the crowd of about 100 in great detail how his 6 month old son, the boy’s mother and Tony’s father, rode out the storm in an overlooked alcove at his home, that his father had just mentioned would be the 'safest spot' should the worst happen.

The worst did happen; that alcove was the only place spared the tornado’s wrath.   It was only when talking about how everyone helped his family after the tornado, that Tony found it hard to speak.  

“We looked for help and found it in a neighbor across the way who was screaming to get our attention,” Tony told the crowd, before stopping to cry. “It was a voice from God,” he tearfully continued. 

So it was that things like the tattered flag a resident pulled from the debris of Watson Trail Park came to mean more than the tornado that couldn’t destroy it.   The tattered flag was framed and dedicated at the observance Saturday along with a large, framed, photo filled, ‘Thank You’ from Tumminia and his family. 

“It’s not a memorial because thank God no one was seriously injured or fatally injured,” Mayor Bill Nolan said. 

“It’s the love everyone shows afterwards.  It just changes you,” Tumminia said. 

In spite such great property loss, if the flag could speak, perhaps it would say what the fire chief said about that day now 1 year ago, “We dodged it.  We made it through.” 

Follow me: on Twitter@andybankertv, on Facebook@andybankerfox2

email: andy.banker@tvstl.com

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