Storms bring wind, hail to eastern Missouri

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

ST. LOUIS -- Those unseasonably warm winter days always seem to come with a price.

So it was as New Year's Day's 60-degree warmth was followed early Monday by severe storms -- and perhaps a tornado or two. No one was hurt, but a few mobile homes were rolled over, trees knocked down, and strong hail pelted parts of the St. Louis area.

By late morning, about 6,000 homes were without power in the St. Louis metro area and in portions of western Illinois, said Tim Fox, a spokesman for AmerenUE. The outages were in various locations, the result mostly of downed lines, he said.

Reynolds County, Mo., southwest of St. Louis, got the worst of it. A roof was torn off one house. Some mobile homes were knocked over, and there were reports of trees snapped apart, said Gary Schmocker, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service office near St. Louis.

"We've got a couple of people going down there to see if there was a tornado," Schmocker said.

Funnel clouds were reported in Franklin, Warren and St. Charles counties. No tornadoes were sighted, but strong winds and hail reaching 2 inches in diameter hit St. Charles County. The hail was sporadic -- several car dealerships contacted said their inventories showed no signs of damage. But homeowners in O'Fallon were awakened by hail pelting their homes.

Schmocker said the unseasonably warm weather was ominous for weather-watchers.

"It's a bad sign when it's that warm," Schmocker said. "The humidity was very high as well. The combination of warm, moist air -- things were very unstable.

"Sometimes when you get this unusually warm, humid air, and you get a low-pressure system moving through, it's definitely a good possibility of thunderstorms and severe weather."

Things should quiet down for the next several days. No precipitation is in sight, Schmocker said, and after a couple more warm days, temperatures should decline to a more seasonal level by the weekend, with highs in the upper 30s or low 40s.

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