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Four months after EF-3 tornado ripped through this community, homeowners weary of impending severe weather

By Caroline Hecker

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    ST. LOUIS, Missouri (KMOV) — Four months after a deadly storm tore through rural St. Charles County, homeowners still cleaning up are anxious about upcoming storms.

“It’s something you think about,” said David Schuessler, who lives near the corner of Highway F and Highway 94. “I try not to let it affect my sleep but as we get closer to tomorrow. If the weather gets really nasty, it’ll be a concern, really a concern.”

Schuessler and his wife were at a Christmas party on Dec. 10, when an EF-3 tornado touched down outside of Defiance, killing an elderly woman and tearing two homes off of their foundations.

“All of a sudden phones started going off,” he said. “We kind of dismissed it until they said a tornado had touched down near F and 94 and all of a sudden, we got really worried.”

The tornado’s path missed his home and horse stables, but left destruction in the form of fencing and debris scattered across his yard. Volunteer groups helped clean up much of the debris, but Schuessler said it’s an ongoing process.

“We’re still finding all kinds of debris,” he said. “You can see all the trees that have been snapped like twigs, it’s just amazing the power of the storm.”

About 10 miles down the road in New Melle, Fire Chief Dan Casey said the department learned a lot from the December storm.

“We really didn’t know the extent of the damage at that point in the night and we weren’t getting too many calls immediately after it passed through,” Casey said. “The real difficulty was the access to the area, lots of large trees in the roadway. There’s limited access to begin with and that made it extremely difficult, also the powerlines.”

Casey said calling on surrounding agencies was also difficult, as many were dealing with their own emergencies related to the storm.

“It was chaos for a few hours,” he said.

However, the department went through a debrief a few days later and with the help of St. Charles County and other surrounding districts, Casey said many of the challenges have been ironed out.

“I think we’ve taken all those things we had issues with and revamped those and made those things a little better for us and operate more efficiently if it were to happen again,” he said.

Meanwhile, as clean-up continues in Defiance, some homeowners fight with insurance companies and try to salvage what’s left of their possessions.

“I was in Kentucky when it happened, but when I got back, I started getting trees, tearing a shed down,” said Red Soest, who has lived in Defiance for decades. “Then John got a hold of me and I tore this house down, then I went down and was helping a guy named Steve and his neighbor clean up all the stuff out of the field.”

The state of Missouri estimates December’s storm damage in St. Charles County cost more than $3 million. Now, locals are hopeful Wednesday’s severe weather can spare the small town.

“You get anxious about it,” Schuessler said. “It’s hard not to.”

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