A tornado that started in Missouri Sunday evening jumped the river to do significant property damage to Chester, but there have been no injuries, Chester Mayor Tom Page said.
Authorities believe the tornado started in Fredericktown, Missouri, then went to Farmington, Missouri and did damage to St. Mary before hopping the Mississippi River and touching down in Chester and Bremen. The high winds ripped out part of the roof of the Three Springs Lodge nursing home in Chester, but all the residents were safe, Chester Fire Chief Marty Bert told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The tornado also leveled Chester's historic dairy barn built in the 1920s and damaged the house of 95-year-old Ralph Kipp, who emerged unscathed.
Page said the business of Chester right now is continuing to assess the damage.
He said that between himself, Fire Chief Bert, Police Chief Bob Helmers and the street department, the city has visited every place where damage has so far been reported.
Page reiterated how lucky Chester citizens were to have escaped injury. He said very few homes in Chester were significantly damaged, and that sheds, barns and storage buildings got the worst of it.
"It could have been a whole lot worse," he said. "I give credit to the early warning system -- everybody's phones were going off and the sirens were sounding." The call to set off the warning system was made by the Charlie Bargmann, head of emergency management.
"The storm definitely had a path," Page said. "Fortunately for us, it was a narrow path. But where it touched down it did significant damage."
The Red Cross came to Chester and helped people who needed shelter. They helped one man who lives out by the grocery store find a hotel in Sparta, the mayor added.
Page himself spent the bulk of the storm hunkered down with other city officials in a command post at the fire department. They were in a room in the back of the station and never personally felt to be in jeopardy, he said.
Eight other towns sent emergency aid to Chester.
The worst of the storm was over by about 9:30 p.m. and police and fire got to work on damage reports. Page said he finally walked out of the fire station around 1 a.m.
"I can't say enough about our police and fire," he added.
A TV station in St. Louis broadcast that the Chester Fire Station was flattened by the tornado.
"I can report that the mayor was sitting in the fire department and it wasn't destroyed," Page deadpanned.
On Monday, city workers went out to begin to assess damage. They are still at it, Page said, and city workers are cleaning up public property.
Page said the destruction is a reminder to never question the strength of Mother Nature.
"There are certain things in life you can control and some things you can't," he said. "Weather is one of the latter."