St. Louis-area attractions return to normalcy following storms

Thursday, July 27, 2006

ST. LOUIS -- Major outdoor attractions here are finally returning to normal, one week after the region was battered by two massive storms that uprooted trees and knocked out electricity to much of the St. Louis area.

At the Missouri Botanical Gardens, horticulture supervisor Lisa Francis was snapping pictures Wednesday as tree-trimming crews cut hanging limbs from towering bald cypress trees.

Francis said she's keeping a photo collection of damage from the storm, which destroyed 50 trees and left limbs and debris scattered throughout walking trails at the park a week later.

"It was tragic, all the destruction. But it was interesting getting out and seeing what nature had dealt us," Francis said.

Nature dealt plenty for the entire region. Utility workers continued their effort to restore power to the 80,000 homes and business still without electricity Wednesday afternoon, according to Ameren Corp.

More than 560,000 customers lost power July 19 and July 21 when two storms ripped through the area, packing 80 mph winds in places.

Six deaths have been blamed on the storm.

At some of the city's most popular attractions, piles of tree limbs and shattered tree trunks are still evident. But most are open and haven't missed much business because of the storms, said St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission spokeswoman Donna Andrews.

At the Saint Louis Zoo, crews are still cleaning up brush and debris, but most of the heavy work was done late last week after the storms, said spokeswoman Janet Powell.

While trees were lost, none of the animals living outdoors were hurt by flying debris, Powell said.

Francis said the Missouri Botanical Garden was lucky in one respect. There are huge glass sculptures on display made by renowned artist Dale Chihuly. The delicate-looking pieces made of slender, spiraling tubes sit directly below heavy tree limbs, but none was damaged, Francis said.

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