Copyright ©2012 The Associated Press. Produced by NewsOK.com All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Crews begin cleanup in Joplin after nation's deadliest single tornado
JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — Rescue crews dug through piles of splintered houses and crushed cars Monday in a search for victims of a half-mile-wide tornado that killed at least 116 people when it blasted much of this Missouri town off the map and slammed straight into its hospital.
A residential neighborhood in Joplin, Mo., is seen Monday, May 23, 2011 after it was leveled by a tornado that destroyed nearly 30 percent of the town on Sunday afternoon. The twister cut a six-mile path through the city. (AP Photo/Tulsa World, Adam Wisneski)
NewsOK Related Articles
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin declares state of emergency
05/24/2011 The declaration covers 14 eastern Oklahoma counties that received storm damage earlier this week.
Roadways flooded across Oklahoma
05/24/2011 Roads are closed due to flooding. Rainfall overnight continues to cause problems in eastern Oklahoma.
Edmond couple moved from Joplin just in time
05/24/2011 EDMOND — An Edmond man is happy that his wife talked him into moving on Saturday, instead of waiting as he wanted.
Joplin tornado single deadliest in U.S. since 1950
05/24/2011 JOPLIN, Missouri — The death toll from a Missouri tornado stands at 117, making it the single deadliest tornado in the U.S. since at least 1950.
Central Oklahoma storms could be severe Tuesday
05/24/2011 There is a 30 percent chance for storms after 1 p.m. in central Oklahoma.
Miami, OK, hospital flooded with tornado patients from Joplin, Mo.
05/24/2011 Victims from the Sunday tornado in Joplin, Mo., are being treated by Oklahoma health care workers at hospitals in Miami and Grove. The Red Cross has sent...
Survivors of Joplin disaster recall narrow escapes
05/23/2011 JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — Rod Pace, manager of the Med Flight helicopter service at St. John's Regional Medical Center, had just finished payroll paperwork...
Mobile homes destroyed, trees down in Delaware County
05/23/2011 The National Weather Service is on its way to Delaware County to investigate a possible tornado. No injuries were reported in the storm.
Chance for thunderstorms in Oklahoma Monday
05/23/2011 There is a 40 percent chance of storms in central Oklahoma with gusts of wind up to 29 mph. The high temperature will be in the mid-80s.
It was the nation's deadliest single twister in nearly 60 years and the second major tornado disaster in less than a month.
Authorities feared the toll could rise as the full scope of the destruction comes into view: house after house reduced to slabs, cars crushed like soda cans, shaken residents roaming streets in search of missing family members. And the danger was by no means over. Fires from gas leaks burned across town, and more violent weather loomed, including the threat of hail, high winds and even more tornadoes.
At daybreak, the city's south side emerged from darkness as a barren, smoky wasteland.
“I've never seen such devastation — just block upon block upon block of homes just completely gone,” said former state legislator Gary Burton who showed up to help at a volunteer center at Missouri Southern State University.
Unlike the multiple storms that killed more than 300 people last month across the South, Joplin was smashed by just one exceptionally powerful tornado.
Not since a June 1953 tornado in Flint, Mich., had a single twister been so deadly. That storm also killed 116, according to the National Weather Service.
Authorities were prepared to find more bodies in the rubble throughout this gritty, blue-collar town of 50,000 people about 160 miles south of Kansas City.
Gov. Jay Nixon told The Associated Press he did not want to guess how high the death toll would eventually climb. But he said: “Clearly, it's on its way up.”
Seventeen people were pulled alive from the rubble. An unknown number of people were hurt.
While many residents had up to 17 minutes of warning, rain and hail may have drowned out the sirens.
Larry Bruffy said he heard the first warning but looked out from his garage and saw nothing. “Five minutes later, the second warning went off,” he said. “By the time we tried to get under the house, it already went over us.”
As rescuers toiled in the debris, a strong thunderstorm lashed the crippled city. Rescue crews had to move gingerly around downed power lines and jagged chunks of debris as they hunted for victims and hoped for survivors. Fires, gas fumes and unstable buildings posed constant threats.
Teams of searchers fanned out in waves across several square miles. The groups went door to door, making quick checks of property that in many places had been stripped to their foundations or had walls collapse.
National Weather Service Director Jack Hayes said the storm was given a preliminary label as an EF4 — the second-highest rating assigned to twisters based on the damage they cause.
Hayes said the storm had winds of 190 to 198 mph. At times, it was three-quarters of a mile wide.
Some of the most startling damage was at St. John's Regional Medical Center, where staff had only moments to hustle their patients into the hallway. Six people died there, five of them patients, plus one visitor.
The storm blew out hundreds of windows and caused damage so extensive that doctors had to abandon the hospital soon after the twister passed. A crumpled helicopter lay on its side in the parking lot near a single twisted mass of metal that used to be cars.
Dr. Jim Riscoe said some members of his emergency room staff showed up after the tornado with injuries of their own, but they worked through the night anyway.
“I spent most of my life at that hospital,” Riscoe said at a triage center at Joplin's Memorial Hall entertainment venue. “It's awful. I had two pregnant nurses who dove under gurneys … It's a testimony to the human spirit.”
Once the center of a thriving mining industry, Joplin flourished though World War II because of its rich lead and zinc mines. It also gained fame as a stop along Route 66, the storied highway stretching from Chicago to Santa Monica, Calif., before freeways diminished the city's importance.
The community, named for the founder of the area's first Methodist congregation, is now a transportation crossroads and manufacturing hub. It's also the hometown of poet Langston Hughes and “Gunsmoke” actor Dennis Weaver.
From the Red Cross:
To check on family and friends, visit the Red Cross Safe and Well website at www.redcross.org/safeandwell.
The Greater Ozarks Chapter of the Red Cross has opened at shelter at Missouri Southern State University gymnasium.
Oklahoma Red Cross spokesman Rusty Surette said state workers are now organizing and plan to send help to Missouri.
News Photo Galleriesview all