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Thousands of St. Louis Homes Affected By Record-Strength Tornado

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Jim Weiss, from St. Louis, carries out a chair from his friend Roger Schnell's house on Royal Avenue that was severely damaged by a tornado the night before, on Saturday, April 23, 2011, in Ferguson, Mo.
Jim Weiss, from St. Louis, carries out a chair from his friend Roger Schnell's house on Royal Avenue that was severely damaged by a tornado the night before, on Saturday, April 23, 2011, in Ferguson, Mo. "He'd help me if I needed it," said Weiss. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, David Carson)

NU Online News Service, April 25, 11:17 a.m. EST

A massive tornado with winds of at least 166 mph rumbled through the northwest side of St. Louis on Friday, leaving thousands of damaged homes.

It was the strongest tornado in more than 40 years in St. Louis County, says the National Weather Service.

Risk modeler Risk Management Solutions says the tornado was classified as a 4 on the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale, meaning it had winds of between 166 mph and 200 mph. The Lambert-St. Louis International Airport sustained heavy damage, RMS said. The worst damages were reported in Maryland Heights, Bridgeton, St. Ann, Edmundson, Berkeley, and Ferguson, as well as in Madison County near Granite City, NWS said. More than 2,000 homes have been damaged in St. Louis County, RMS says.

Slideshow: Click to view the catastrophic damage in St. Louis

State Farm spokesman Jim Camoriano says the insurer has received 800 total claims. About 600 are homeowners claims and, of them, more than 100 are from homes that are deemed uninhabitable.

One structure classified as uninhabitable is a State Farm agency in Bridgeton, Camoriano adds.

"It [the agency] is near Interstate 70. Acros the highway was a building made of sheet metal. This tornado ripped off the metal, threw it across the highway and wrapped it around a tree like a grapevine," Camoriano adds, lending pespective of the storm's power. "The tops of trees along the [tornado's] path were sheared off." 

Caught On Video: Tornado Formation and Airport Destruction

According to the NWS, one tornado touched down in Bridgeton, Mo., about 15 miles from the St. Louis central business district. No injuries or fatalities have been reported. Another tornado, an EF1, hit New Melle in St. Charles County.

Large hail was also reported, says the NWS.

Top 5 Missouri Personal Lines Insurers, 2010On Saturday, insurer American Family already reported getting 350 claims, including 24 from homes that are destroyed or heavily damaged.

Spokesman Steve Witmer says the company is taking stock of the damages along the long, narrow path of destruction. The company is doling out checks to policyholders for additional living expenses.

“It was a holiday weekend and many areas were restricted since power lines were down, so we expect claims will be coming through for some time,” he says. “We have a major claims operation in the area so we came together quickly and got up and running, getting to the most severely hit first.”

Jerry Davies, spokesman for Farmers Insurance, part of the Zurich Insurance Group, says its companies have received 230 total claims as of noon April 22. About 205 claims are property claims, he adds.

Missouri Insurance Director John M. Huff says most claims paid thus far are for temporary living arrangements. The state’s insurance department posted resources on its website.

According to Highline Data the top writers of personal lines insurance in Missouri in 2010 were State Farm, with a 24.8 percent market share, American Family Insurance Group (16.2 percent), Zurich Insurance Group (6.7 percent), Shelter Insurance Group (5.8 percent), and Progressive Group and Liberty Mutual (tied with 5.1 percent). 

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