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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

America's deadliest tornado for 64 years: Terrifying twister cuts six-mile swathe through a Missouri town, leaving up to 116 dead


Aftermath: Aerial footage of the destruction in Joplin, Missouri, where a massive tornado tore straight through the city

Devastating 198mph tornado tore a path a mile wide and six miles long straight through Joplin, Missouri

Deadliest single tornado in over 60 years with at least 116 people killed

Meteorologists issue new tornado warning for the ruined city

Nearly 500 people have now died as a result of tornadoes in the U.S. in 2011

Residents only had 20 minutes to take cover before monster tornado swept through the heart of the city

Missouri governor declares state of emergency in city of about 50,000 people

Emergency workers say thunderstorms are hampering efforts to find survivors as 1,500 rescuers search for missing

Family and friends of the missing post moving appeals for information on Facebook and blogs

Storm Prediction Center says more violent weather expected with further tornadoes through the middle of week

Devastation: Destroyed homes and debris cover the ground as a second storm moves in on Monday in Joplin, Missouri

Thousands of people were left without homes to go tonight after the deadliest single tornado to strike the United States in over 60 years touched down on Missouri, reducing the city of Joplin to rubble, ripping buildings apart and killing at least 116 people in a 6-mile path of destruction.

Authorities said they had rescued seven people alive on Monday, but emergency warned that the death toll could climb higher as heavy winds, strong rain and hail quarter-sized hail stones hampered the search effort.

Meteorologists issued a new tornado warning for the devastated city as forecasters warned large swathes of the country to brace for more big storms on Tuesday.

Path of destruction: No house escaped the wrath of nature in some of Minneapolis

A tornado watch was issued on Monday for Oklahoma and parts of southern Kansas due to an 'evolving tornado threat', said Russell Schneider, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Storm Prediction Center.

'We are currently forecasting a major severe weather outbreak for Tuesday over the central United States with strong tornadoes likely over Oklahoma, Kansas, extreme northern Texas, southwest Missouri,' Mr Schneider said.

The National Weather Service said the tornado packed winds of up to 198 mph.

The weather service's director, Jack Hayes, said the storm was given a preliminary label as an EF4 - the second-highest rating given to twisters. The rating is assigned to storms based on the damage they cause.

Hayes said the storm had winds of 190 to 198 miles per hour. He said survey teams from the National Weather Service are on the scene and will make a final determination on the rating Tuesday.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to help out after one of the worst disasters in the state's history.

Homeless: Ted Grabenauer sleeps on his front porch the morning after a tornado ripped off the roof of his home when it hit Joplin, Missouri

Ruins: A view of the devastation after a tornado blew the roof off the St John's Regional Medical Center, rear, where about 180 patients cowered and were eventually evacuated

Desolation: A residential neighbourhood in Joplin is seen after it was levelled by the tornado

President Barack Obama called Nixon and offered his condolences to those affected, assuring the governor that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would provide whatever assistance was needed.

'Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the families of all those who lost their lives in the tornadoes and severe weather that struck Joplin, Missouri, as well as communities across the Midwest today,' the President said in a statement sent from Air Force One as he flew to Europe.

Map: Infrared image of the powerful tornado that spun through a densely populated part of Missouri

'We commend the heroic efforts by those who have responded and who are working to help their friends and neighbours at this very difficult time.'

Caring for the injured was made more difficult because the main hospital, Saint John's Regional Medical Center, had to be evacuated after suffering a direct hit - the tornado ripped off its roof and smashed all its windows.

Cries could still be heard early Monday from survivors trapped in the wreckage.

Despair: A tree stripped of bark and leaves frames St John's Regional Medical Center

Eye of the storm: The tornado tore a 6-mile path across southwestern Missouri

Relief: Maggie Kelley and her husband, Trey Adams hug their dog, Saint, after finding him amid the rubble of her home in Joplin

Mr Nixon said he feared the death toll would rise but also expected survivors to be found in the rubble.

‘I don't think we're done counting,’ he said. ‘I still believe that because of the size of the debris and the number of people involved that there are lives to be saved.’

Crews found bodies during the night in vehicles the storm had flipped over, torn apart and left looking like crushed cans.

Triage centers and shelters set up around the city quickly filled to capacity.
At Memorial Hall, a downtown entertainment venue, nurses and other emergency workers from across the region treated critically injured patients.

Efforts: Rescue workers in lime-green jackets search for bodies and survivors inside St John's hospital

Re-united: A man carries a young girl who was rescued after being trapped with her mother in their home

Devastation: Emergency personnel walk through a neighbourhood severely damaged by a tornado near the Joplin hospital. There are are no firm details on the number of dead or injured, as the hospital is out of action

Memories: Evelyn Knoblauch looks at a picture in what is left of her daughter's house

At another makeshift unit at a Lowe's home improvement store, wooden planks served as beds.

Outside, ambulances and fire trucks waited for calls. During one stretch after midnight on Monday, emergency vehicles were scrambling nearly every two minutes.

On Monday morning, survivors picked through the rubble of what were once their homes, salvaging clothes, furniture, family photos and financial records, the air pungent with the smell of gas and smoking embers.

Others wandered through the wreckage with nowhere to go, their homes or apartments destroyed.

Kelley Fritz, 45, of Joplin, rummaged through the remains of a storage building with her husband, Jimmy.

Search: An emergency vehicle drives through a severely damaged neighbourhood in Joplin

They quickly realised they would never find the belongings they stored there, and that they had lost much of what was in their home after the tornado ripped away the roof.

Their sons, aged 20 and 17, went outside after the storm and saw that every home was destroyed.

‘My sons had deceased children in their arms when they came back,’ Mrs Fritz said. ‘My husband and I went out and saw two or three dead bodies on the ground.’

Soul destroying: Jean Logan surveys the damage to her home in Joplin after the tornado. She had taken refuge in her laundry room with her granddaughter

A total mess: Rachel Hurst picks through her belongings that were strewn about from her garage that was blown away in Minneapolis on Sunday

Mrs Fritz said she was surprised she survived. ‘You could just feel the air pull up and it was so painful. I didn't think we were going to make it, it happened so fast.’

Tornado sirens gave residents about a 20-minute warning before the tornado touched down on the city's west side.

Staff at St John's Regional Medical Center rushed patients into hallways before the storm struck the nine-storey building, blowing out hundreds of windows and leaving the facility unusable.

The hospital was among the worst-hit locations.

Emergency: Extensive damage can be seen at the St John's Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Missouri. An emergency agency spokesman says fatalities had been reported but was unsure of the exact figure

The Joplin twister was one of 68 reported tornadoes across seven Midwest states over the weekend, stretched from Oklahoma to Wisconsin, according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center.

One person was killed in Minneapolis. But the devastation in Missouri was the worst, eerily reminiscent of the tornadoes that killed more than 300 people across the South last month.

Residents said the damage was breathtaking in scope.

‘You see pictures of World War II, the devastation and all that with the bombing. That's really what it looked like,’ said Kerry Sachetta, the principal of a flattened Joplin High School.

‘I couldn't even make out the side of the building. It was total devastation in my view. I just couldn't believe what I saw.’

Emergency management officials rushed heavy equipment to Joplin to help lift debris and clear the way for search and recovery operations.

Governor Nixon declared a state of emergency, and President Barack Obama said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was working with state and local agencies.

Raised to the ground: Blocks of homes lie in total destruction after the devastating tornado

Unbelievable: Destroyed vehicles are piled on top of one another in the parking lot of the Joplin Regional Medical Centre

Desperate: Amy Langford carries items from her house that she was in with her husband Mark when the tornado hit their home in Joplin

Jeff Lehr, a reporter for the Joplin Globe, said he was upstairs in his home when the storm hit but was able to make his way to a basement closet.

The storm tore the roof off his house, but he was safe. When he emerged, he found people wandering through the streets, covered in mud.

‘I'm talking to them, asking if they knew where their family is,’ Mr Lehr said. ‘Some of them didn't know and weren't sure where they were. All the street markers were gone.’

Justin Gibson, 30, huddled with three relatives outside the tangled debris of a Home Depot. He pointed to a black pickup that had been tossed into the store's ruins and said it belonged to his roommate's brother, who was last seen in the store with his two young daughters.

Mr Gibson, who has three children of his own, said his home was levelled and ‘everything in that neighbourhood is gone. The high school, the churches, the grocery store. I can't get hold of my ex-wife to see how my kids are.

‘I don't know the extent of this yet,’ he said, ‘but I know I'll have friends and family dead.’

In Minneapolis, where a tornado killed one person and injured 29, authorities imposed an overnight curfew in a 4-square-mile area, including some of the city's poorest neighbourhoods, to prevent looting and keep streets clear for emergency crews.

Levelled: Red Cross representatives say 75% of Joplin is gone - here, vehicles and houses in the vicinity of Twenty-fourth and Main Streets are a jumble of rubble after a the tornado swept through

Condolences: President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon during his visit to Dublin, Ireland. The President extended his condolences to all impacted by the deadly tornadoes

Widespread devastation: Another tornado in Minneapolis damaged at least 100 homes, toppling hundreds of trees and injuring at least 29 people

Community spirit: Residents of Joplin help a woman who survived in her basement after a tornado tore a path a mile wide and four miles long destroying homes and businesses

Mayor RT Rybak said one liquor store was looted right after the tornado hit late Sunday and a few burglaries took place overnight.

He said it wasn't immediately clear how many homes were affected, simply saying: 'It's a lot.'

Though the damage covered several blocks, it appeared few houses were totally demolished. Much of the damage was to roofs, front porches that had been sheared away and fences.

The tornado left part of a garage door in a tree and many large trees were left leaning against houses.

Pat Trafton said her family escaped unharmed after a tree was left leaning against her house.

Mrs Trafton, 67, said: 'It's been a crazy day.

'They say it was a monster tornado. It all just happened so fast.'

It was the first tornado to hit the city since August 2009. 'There was no doubt right away,' the meteorologist said.

North Minneapolis resident Tiffany Pabich was taking a nap just as the tornado blew through.

Bettered streets: Debris is scattered about in Minneapolis. On Sunday night a tornado warning was issued for several areas in central states

Crushed: Vehicles were picked up and dumped across the city by the tornado which left 30 people dead and dozens injured

In the north-east Kansas, powerful storms spawned funnel clouds and hail that ripped limbs off of trees and shattered windows.

About 200 homes were damaged in and around Reading with the tornado sweeping through the small town around 9:15pm Saturday night, said Kansas Division of Emergency Management spokeswoman Sharon Watson.

A man was pronounced dead shortly after being taken to Newman Regional Hospital in Emporia, about 20 miles from where the tornado hit, hospital supervisor Deb Gould said.

Ms Gould said two other people were brought in with injuries but she had no further details.

Five people were injured in all, along with the person killed, said Ms Watson.
Reading, a town of about 250 people is 50 miles south of the Kansas capital city, Topeka.

Carnage: Rescue vehicles line up along northbound Rangeline Road in Joplin, Mo. after a fatal tornado swept through the city

Reverend Lyle Williams, who is a pastor for about 10 worshippers at the Reading First Baptist Church, said the church suffered extensive damage: 'Yeah, it's pretty bad,' he said. 'My daughter was out there and told me about it.'

'I'm not going to be able to have church today that's for sure,' he added, saying he's been a pastor at the church for 21 years.

In Jefferson County, a mobile home was destroyed with an elderly couple was trapped inside, Ms Watson told CNN. She said responders cleared the debris and rescued the couple unhurt.

Wreckage: A man stands amid the remains of a Wal-Mart store, after it was hit by the tornado, in Joplin

Power had been restored in the town by early Sunday and a shelter was being set up at a local school.

The National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado also touched down in Topeka and northeast of the city near Lake Perry, where damage was reported at a nearby campsite, Ms Watson said.

While many states have been struck by severe storms this spring, Kansas has been having one of its lightest tornado seasons in decades, according to the National Weather Service.

A taste of spring? Trees were stripped of branches and many were left resting against houses

Flattened: Reading - a town of about 250 people, 50 miles south of capital city Topeka

Twister tragedy

Joplin Missouri 2011 Tornado May 23rd 2011 Massive Monster Killer Twister Tornado EF 5 MO 2011

source: dailymail


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