Nearly a year after devastating tornado, Bridgeton almost all the way back -

Nearly a year after devastating tornado, Bridgeton almost all the way back

ST. LOUIS ( -- More than 1,600 homes in St. Louis were damaged or destroyed last year on Good Friday when five tornadoes ripped through the area. One of the hardest hit streets was Beaverton Drive in Bridgeton, where most of the homes were destroyed by the strongest tornado to hit St. Louis County in more than four decades.

There are two homes still under construction on the street, but like most communities in north St. Louis County, Bridgeton is most of the way back.

Terry Hayes, who lives on Beaverton, said the tornado left only his home’s foundation and smashed and scattered his possessions. Today, he’s got a brand-new house filled with brand-new things and a heart filled with gratitude.

“I thank God,” said Hayes.

Terry and his wife were able to move into their new home in February, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Rebuilding their home and lives has required patience and answers to a million questions.

“You have to determine if you can rebuild on the same foundation,” said Hayes. “If you can do that then you have to decide if you’re going to build the exact same house or if you’re going to tweak it a little bit.”

Bridgeton’s Public Works building has been boarded up and unused since it was hit by the tornado, proof that not only homes were damaged by the storm. There were 500 buildings that suffered at least significant damage in Bridgeton, but most have been repaired or replaced.

Some empty, unsafe homes remain and it’s usually blamed on uncooperative insurance companies.

“Some are good and some are not so good,” said Bridgeton Mayor Conrad Bowers. “There are a few homes that the city will have to move on.”

But cooperation and gratitude have been the rule in the neighborhood and throughout the storm-damaged area.

A ceremony to mark the exact date of the storm is planned for April 22 at City Hall.

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