April 23, 2011 / 2:55 AM / 8 years ago

St. Louis airport hit by tornado, area battered

ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - Crews worked on Saturday to get the international airport in St. Louis back up and running after it was raked by a tornado that also battered homes and cars and knocked out power in the Midwestern city.

Damage at part of the St. Louis airport is seen in this image taken from video in St. Louis, Missouri, April 23, 2011. REUTERS/RTV/KSDK/Handout

Authorities closed Lambert-St. Louis International Airport after the tornado tore through the area on Friday night, damaging the terminal and at least one plane. Airlines affected by the shutdown included Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and AMR Corp’s American Airlines.

Airport director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge said the facility would receive less than a dozen flights on Saturday night and would officially reopen on Sunday morning. She said there would be no outbound flights until Sunday.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and released state funds to help in the clean-up.

“It’s just amazing that an F-4 tornado could come through a highly populated area with no fatalities. People got a 34-minute warning and that warning saved countless lives,” he told reporters, referring to a tornado intensity category.

Some housing subdivisions were leveled by the tornado. Roofs were blown off, trees smashed into houses, cars flipped over, trucks blown off highways and windows shattered.

At least 750 homes sustained damage, with under 100 destroyed, Nixon said. Injuries but no deaths were reported.

Nixon, who toured the area by air, spoke to President Barack Obama, who pledged his full support and assistance with the recovery efforts, according to the governor’s office.

The airport, located inside the St. Louis city limits about 5 miles northwest of downtown, was closed after the tornado hit. Hamm-Niebruegge said an American Airlines jet on the ground was damaged.

Several people were injured by flying glass when the main terminal was hit. A thousand people were involved in the effort to get the airport operating again, officials said.

Officials said 47,000 people were without power after the storm hit, with more than half of them still without electricity late on Saturday.

Editing by Jerry Norton and Will Dunham

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