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Damage assessment begins after storms

BY JIM SALTERAssociated Press

ST. LOUIS - Officials in many areas of Missouri were assessing damage Friday, a day after massive storms brought high winds, heavy rain, flash floods and at least one tornado to the state.

Strong storms on Thursday arrived in three waves - morning, afternoon and night. The morning storm was perhaps the worst, dropping a brief EF1 tornado on University City in St. Louis County at 5:23 a.m. Ninety-four homes were damaged, 20 of them extensively, said Martina Boyter, a spokeswoman for the city.

Weather watchers were bracing for even worse storms Thursday night, but that round, while severe, didn't spawn any confirmed tornadoes or cause much significant damage.

Ironically, the afternoon storm stole some of the thunder - literally - from the later storm, National Weather Service meteorologist Jayson Gosselin said.

"The afternoon storm helped. Temperatures were cooler and the amount of instability was a lot less than what we thought it would be (for the evening storms)," Gosselin said.

The University City twister was characterized as an EFI, with winds of up to 110 mph. University City was in the line of the most severe evening storm, too, with reports of winds reaching 75 mph. Gov. Jay Nixon issued an emergency declaration on Thursday and toured damaged areas of University City during the afternoon.

It wasn't just wind causing problems.

Parts of the state received more than 5 inches of rain. St. Ann in St. Louis County received 7.2 inches of rain over a 48-hour period, Gosselin said. Jefferson City had about 6 inches of rain and much of western Missouri saw at least 5 inches in a downpour that caused flash flooding in many locations, leading to several water rescues.

Still, Gosselin said it would have been far worse if not for the fact that much of Missouri was dry because of the lack of rain over the past several weeks

"If the soil had already been wet before this event, we would have had much bigger problems," Gosselin said.

Lightning strikes were blamed for fires that damaged homes in the St. Louis suburb of Ballwin and near Farmington in southeast Missouri.

Golf-ball sized hail was reported in parts of the St. Louis area and in the southeast Missouri town of Jackson.

The foul weather should be out of the way for at least a few days. Forecasters are calling for a dry, but cool, weekend, with highs mainly in the 50s.

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