Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 04/25/2011

St. Louis Lambert Airport tornado: stunning video, photos and facts

(National Weather Service)
By now most have heard about the tornado that carved a devastating 22 mile path just north of St. Louis Friday, ripping through Lambert International Airport, shattering hundreds of glass panes, peeling off a large section of roof from a concourse and blowing a shuttle bus on top of a concrete wall.

The National Weather Service prepared a website with a full account of the storm. Here are some of the key facts:

* The tornado, at its peak intensity, ranked a “4” on the Enhanced Fujita Scale , the strongest in St. Louis County for 44 years. That means peak three second gusts reached 166-200 mph.
* It reached this peak intensity just west of the airport where it devastated the community of Bridgeton
* Its damage swatch was as large as 200-400 yards wide
*The storm produced very large hail to baseball size

Watch this raw footage from a security camera inside Lambert airport as the tornado strikes (the most intense action is between 30 and 50 seconds)...

Here’s another video which shows a crowd of people, relatively composed (despite a few screams), as the tornado bears down on one of the waiting areas and they are evacuated.

Below is the radar image of the storm northwest of St. Louis. The left panel displays the characteristic hook-shape echo on the radar, frequently characteristic of tornadoes. In that same image, at the point of the hook, you see a white-colored area of extreme high reflectivity which is the radar detecting the debris lofted into the air by the tornado. On the right panel, you see what we call a “velocity couplet” where the green and red areas are next to each other: Where it’s green, wind is blowing toward the radar, and where it’s red, wind is blowing away from the radar - suggestive of strong rotation where the red/green intersect.

(National Weather Service)

Here’s an image of a hailstone from the tornado-producing thunderstorm...

(National Weather Service)

The last image I’ll post is a before and after picture of a road in Bridgeton, Missouri, where the storm demolished a number of homes.

(National Weather Service)

All of this damage notwithstanding, the most remarkable aspect of the tornado is that no lives were lost, nor were there even any serious injuries. That’s especially true when you consider the twister was wrapped in rain and difficult to see (video). The Associated Press attributes this “miracle” to early warnings, good timing, and common sense ...

By  |  10:00 AM ET, 04/25/2011

Categories:  U.S. Weather, Thunderstorms, Latest

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