Storms menace Missouri towns

Monday, May 31, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:36 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

WEATHERBY — A line of severe thunderstorms stretched across Missouri on Sunday, dropping hail and threatening to spawn tornadoes a day after three people were killed and at least eight were injured when a tornado hit near this northwest Missouri town.

A man was killed shortly before 5:30 p.m. Sunday when strong winds snapped off part of a large tree and dropped it onto the sport utility vehicle he was driving in the St. Louis suburb of Berkeley, the Missouri State Highway Patrol reported. Darren Clark, 39, of Ferguson died at the scene.

Authorities in Linn County reported a funnel cloud early Sunday afternoon near Purdin, about 90 miles northeast of Kansas City.

The National Weather Service issued tornado warnings in counties across the state Sunday, although there were no immediate reports of confirmed sightings or touchdowns.

The storms came through the state just hours after a tornado killed three people a few miles northeast of Weatherby, hitting about 10:30 p.m. Saturday along a gravel road at the border of De Kalb and Daviess counties.

The victims, whose names were not released Sunday by authorities, were two women in a house and a man in a mobile home, both cases in Daviess County.

“The patrolman who found him said he had (two young children) pulled underneath him,” Daviess County Sheriff Kevin Heldenbrand said as he stood on the property where the two women were found. He held a Bible in his hand that he found in the debris.

Those children and two others from the women’s home were taken to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, where three were listed in critical condition and one was in serious condition, hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Benz said.

Heldenbrand said the tornado lifted the man’s mobile home from its base and dropped it across a gravel road into De Kalb County. A child’s crib, stuffed animals, toys and a copy of the action movie “Armageddon” were in the debris. Only the cinderblocks from the home’s foundation remained Sunday.

The home a few hundred feet away where the women were killed also was leveled by the tornado. In between the homes, debris from broken bee hives was scattered in a field and creek, with the bees buzzing.

A neighbor, Jodi Frazier, lives on about 200 acres across the gravel road from the man’s home. Scared by the impending storm, Frazier and her family left their home Saturday night about an hour before the storm hit, taking shelter in the basement of a nearby friend’s home.

“It didn’t sound that bad until the tornadoes started dropping out of the sky, and then that’s when we got out,” she said, “because a mobile home, everybody knows you can’t ride a tornado out in.”

Frazier, her husband and daughter returned to find their home leveled and about 100 people searching their pasture for signs of life. Two other children weren’t home when the storm struck. Authorities were worried they had died in the storm after failing to immediately locate the family.

"I was devastated, just thankful that we were alive and everybody was fine, but just to see your whole life strung across the pasture is pretty devastating,” Frazier said.

On Sunday, the search continued — this time for belongings. As of midday, friends had uncovered family photos, saddles and even her daughter’s baby book.

Two of the family’s barns also were leveled, and Frazier’s husband was deciding Sunday afternoon whether he needed to put down any of the family’s half-dozen horses, some of which were injured in the storm.

One person remained in stable condition Sunday at the hospital in Cameron, an emergency room nurse said. The hospital also transferred three other patients to hospitals in the Kansas City area. Their conditions were not immediately available.

Mike Hudson, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said the worst of the tornadic activity generated by the storm was north of Kansas City and east of St. Joseph. He said several tornadoes were reported across Buchanan, Platte, Clinton, De Kalb, Daviess, Harrison and Mercer counties.

Hudson said the Weather Service was sending people to the counties to evaluate damage and determine the size of the tornadoes. He said the agency had received preliminary reports of damaged farm houses and outbuildings as well as downed trees.

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