For the second time in seven months, Chester is cleaning up from a powerful storm after straight-line winds ripped through town late Thursday afternoon, leaving destruction in their wake.
"The damage is widespread, trees are down everywhere, homes are damaged from trees falling on top of them," Chester Mayor Tom Page said at about 8:45 p.m. Thursday.
According to Emergency Management Coordinator Charlie Bargman Jr., one house on Light Street was not habitable, though no one was injured there and most belongings were salvageable.
Bargman said on Friday they were seeing a lot of downed trees and power lines, limbs on houses, outside furniture blown away, and damaged roofs and outbuildings, but not a lot of major structural damage. In the immediate aftermath, there were approximately 2,000 houses or businesses without power.
"It's a big mess," Bargman said.
Celebrity meteorologist and storm chaser Reed Timmer was on the scene in Chester and across the Chester bridge in Missouri during the event. Watch his roughly 10-minute video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8idviVDWkJU.
According to the National Weather Service, Chester was impacted by straight-line winds that extended west to east through sections of southeast Missouri into southwest Illinois. The most extensive straight-line wind damage was in a swath from Desloge, Missouri, through Chester. The same storm system resulted in eight tornadoes rated EF-0 and EF-1 across the two states.
Page said the storm was different from the tornado that hit the city on Oct. 24, 2021. Instead of hopping and skipping through town, this blast of violent wind was continuous and it blew through the entire community with equal force. The storm began with light rain, progressed to lightning and thunder, then the sudden, horrendous, straight-line winds lasted just a few minutes.
"You just saw one heck of a wind," said Page, who was at home when the wind picked up. Curious, he went out of the house and into the garage to get a better look. "I probably did exactly what I shouldn't have," he chuckled.
Once it was over, he drove uptown to see how the business community had fared, and stopped at the Chester Eagles for a bite to eat -- a local business that still had power. Page then made several tours all over Chester. He would have gone to the 8th grade graduation Thursday night to watch his grandson in the role of commencement marshal -- but the graduation was postponed until Sunday.
According to Bargman, Ameren crews worked throughout the night and by Friday morning there were only approximately 1,000 units without power. Throughout the morning various areas of Chester were slowly returned to power. City Hall had power by 11 a.m., West Holmes by noon and Palestine Road by 1 p.m. Taylor Street to the river was closed most of the day Friday.
• Jim Beers contributed to this report.