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Travelers rerouted after tornado strikes St. Louis airport

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Rerouted passengers are put up in hotels
  • Airport closed after a tornado struck Friday
  • St. Louis is the country's 30th-busiest airport

(CNN) -- A travel website on Saturday flashed the word "CANCELED" in blinking red letters across an online flight schedule for Missouri's largest airport after a rash of severe weather stranded travelers across the region.

Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, the country's 30th busiest, was closed after a tornado struck the facility on Friday, but officials expect it to reopen Sunday.

"All departing and arriving flights are canceled until further notice pending full safety assessments of airport facilities," the airport website said Saturday.

St. Louis-bound flights were diverted to neighboring airports as a result of the storms, including more than a dozen flights to Kansas City International Airport, according to airport spokesman Joe McBride.

Rerouted passengers were put up in hotels, and at least three airlines tried to accommodate frustrated travelers on Saturday by busing them from Kansas City to St. Louis, he said.

See iReporter's shots of airport damage

Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge said an American Airlines 757 jet suffered significant damage and four other American aircraft had minor damage.

Tornado hits St. Louis airport
Missouri tornado caught on video

Friday night, lines of weary passengers wrapped around airport car rental centers in a frantic attempt to find alternate transportation.

"It was pretty crazy," said Enterprise employee Daniel Tighe. "People were getting into Kansas City just to figure out that their flight had been canceled.

"We took in 30 walk-in reservations just last night," he added. "Plus it's the holiday weekend."

By Saturday the influx of one-way car reservations had abated as rerouted passengers made their way to St. Louis.

"We had quite a few runs to the Greyhound bus station and train station downtown," said Chris Bos, an employee for Nick & Nino's taxi service in Kansas City. "Most people didn't complain. There's not much else they could do."

AirTran said it will fly its St. Louis-bound passengers to Bloomington, Illinois, or Kansas City, Missouri, according to company spokesman Christopher White.

But potential thunderstorms and flooding still loomed over the St. Louis area by Saturday afternoon, the National Weather Service said.

Major damage was evident in nearby communities, where an estimated 30,000 homes were without power.

See iReport images from elsewhere in Missouri

Meanwhile, 30-minute delays lingered at Chicago's Midway and O'Hare airports, where severe storms prompted more than 500 flight cancellations Friday, according to Karen Pride, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Aviation.