Five Days On – University City April 2014 Tornado (1), University City Trees And Homes (0)

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This old tree at the intersection of McKnight Road and Spoon Drive, the epicenter of the tornado destruction in the early morning hours of April 3, 2014, is still laying in its twisted state 5 days later on the western edge of the Ruth Park public golf course.

(All Photography © Rod Milam)

Five days after the rude 5:26am wake up call that the western section of University City, Missouri received in the form of an F1 tornado, there are still visible and raw signs of the power of the relatively “weak” twister.

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Street signs, utility poles, and fully toppled old growth trees litter the easements and sidewalks of the recently reopened main drag of McKnight Road.  Demolition teams and tree cutting services also dot the neighborhood and Ruth Park public golf course along with uprooted tree stumps as clean up continues nearly a full week after the series of storms last week that brought a double punch of grape-sized hail and tornadic conditions within the span of 16 hours.

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And while there was, thankfully, no loss of life or serious personal injury as a result of the rough start to spring, the trail of crushed cars, shingle-less roofs, and damaged or condemned homes still hurt those that survived the initial touchdown path of the 1/2 mile long trail that the tornado blazed.

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Caution indeed….

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April Roars In For The City Of Lions

Comp of hail storm and tornado damage.

(l) A University City neighborhood during a hail storm at about 1:30pm on April 2, 2014, and (r) the aftermath of a probable tornado that passed through U. City in a different section of town at 5:20am on April 3rd.

The weather in March of 2014 in St. Louis/U. City may have come in like a lion and gone out like a lamb, but April has shown that it refuses to be upstaged in the drama department by its predecessor on the calendar.

On Tuesday afternoon, April 2, 2014 at about 1:30 a fairly strong, but typical, thunderstorm was passing over University City.  There didn’t seem to be any excessive wind.  But the large falling rain drops slowly converted into larger, grape-sized hail stones that came pelting down on the middle third of the city and left a layer what looked like snow blobs on every flat surface.  (Click here to see the hail storm in action.)

This hailstorm was part of a series of other storms that hit in the region. The video I posted was interesting enough that both ABC’s and NBC’s evening news programs wanted to use the video for their broadcasts.

ABC Evening News Featured Video

The ABC Evening News With Diane Sawyer used the linked video to talk about this and the other storms that passed through the Midwest on the anniversary of the largest recorded outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded.

Then, as if the dinged cars, bruised tree buds, and gumball (sweetgum) cull wasn’t messy enough as a result of that storm, only 16 hours later at about 5:30am on Thursday, April 3rd while I was working a graveyard shift in Earth City, my father reported hearing the tell-tale “freight train” sound during another round of thunderstorms passing through U. City.  Sure enough, given the path of downed trees, shingle deprived roofs, and toppled power lines, it appears as though a low-grade tornado made its way through town.

Possible Tornado Path

This is the path of the twister that I estimate based on the number of downed trees and level of detritus I observed as dawn broke.

By the time I made my way back east to town, the University City police had shut down McKnight road from one end of Ruth Park to the other because of a number completely uprooted trees and telephone polls.

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These city worker trucks are about a block away from the biggest damage, but this street suffered quite a bit as well.

Fortunately, it appears that the initial touchdown hit over the town’s public golf course (Ruth Park) which is only permanently populated by rabbits and squirrels in the pre-dawn hours and was certainly empty of the local duffers that may have been out during daylight hours on a nicer day.

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The last thing that these felled old evergreens gave the city was a distinct aroma of pine from their abrupt and harsh last nights sleep on Groby Road.

Moving southeast away from Ruth Park, there was more evidence to be found about the path of the twister.

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No one in this house off of Old Bonhomme Road was reported as injured. Certainly they’ll have to be on the phone to both their home and auto insurance companies later on today.

Then even further southeast on Gannon Avenue, a sight that I’ve never seen went by…a Metro (Bi-State) bus was diverted from Delmar Boulevard down this damaged street because a big section of Delmar was shut down because of more downed trees and a broken gas main.

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This big bus had to bob and weave its way down this tiny side street since I didn’t fair much better than the main drag that it usually travels.

At the time of this post, I’ve seen no official word of whether or not this was officially a tornado nor any word on what strength the twister may have been.  Having seen much worse post tornado damage in the past, I guess that this was a low-level one at best, maybe an F0 or F1 on the Fujita Scale.  Most importantly, it doesn’t appear as though anyone was hurt.  But even if this wasn’t the strongest tornado to have ever hit this area of St. Louis, it was bad enough for those that it hit directly.  More news will certainly come out in the coming hours.  (Hopefully, most of it benign. )

KWMU’s Bob McCabe Leaving The Control Booth After 20+ Years

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Bob McCabe looking pensive, knowledgeable, relaxed, and totally at home in “air control” at the University of Missouri St. Louis studios of KWMU in February of 2010.

For morning listeners of public radio in St. Louis over the past 20+ years, this is the face to put to the voice and name of Bob McCabe that you’ve been waking up to and driving to work to while listening to either the news or classical music.  I shot this picture when I was back in St. Louis in 2010 to record and live stream St. Louis local, fellow U. City alum,  and world renowned jazz pianist Peter Martin in his inaugural Peter Martin Music: Live! series with guest Diane Reeves.  Peter was at KWMU to do and interview for Cityscape, and I had a quick bit of time to talk to Bob and catch up with him between breaks in programming.

I had the pleasure to not only work with “Bob” when I was an intern and an employee on the air at KWMU from 1992 through 2000, but I also knew “Mr. McCabe” when he was my home room teacher during my senior year of high school at University City Senior High.  He was an English teacher at the high school for years and my guess is that most radio listeners didn’t know that.

And on top of that, before I re-met Bob as a colleague and not a student, I found out that he spent 11 years working in the Catholic ministry and time singing and recording with the St. Louis Symphony Chorus for two seasons, and working in other areas of St. Louis theater community.  And my guess is that most radio listeners didn’t know that either.

In spite of our completely goofy relationship that we ended up having when the “on-air” light went off in the studio, I always went away impressed with the rich and diverse life that Bob insisted on carving out for himself.  I used him as one of my examples of someone that was not afraid to follow a path that may seem very different and disparate to others, but right for himself.  This is an aspiration I think I have been able to mainly achieve, especially since I can count a full 5 different careers that I’ve had already. (I think I’ve gone a bit overboard on that diversity thing.)

So with a bit of a sad heart and a hat tip for inspiration, I wish both “Bob” and “Mr. McCabe” the best in his retirement from one of his many careers, and I know that I’ll miss hearing his voice from half way across the country in New York City online.  I don’t know what it is about us St. Louisians and our radio hosts, but I have no one I’d rather listen to during morning drive than Bob on my iPhone 1000 miles away.  I still  wish that he wouldn’t leave the air, but he’s going to do what he wants, so that’s going to be good enough for me.

So after the end of June, 90.7FM in St. Louis won’t be the same, and neither shall I.  Thanks, Bob!  Thanks for everything!