Live Blog: Tornado kills 116 in Joplin, Missouri
The tornado flattened buildings, snapped trees and tossed tractor-trailers like toys as it touched down in Joplin.
May 23rd, 2011
01:39 PM ET

Live Blog: Tornado kills 116 in Joplin, Missouri

[Updated at 4:40 p.m.] A total of 116 people are confirmed dead as a result of Sunday's tornado in Joplin,Missouri, city manager Mark Rohr told reporters Monday. That means the death toll from the Joplin twister is tied for second most in U.S. history, since the National Weather Service begin keeping such records in 1950.

[Updated at 1:39 p.m.] Rescuers have pulled five families from beneath the rubble in Joplin, Missouri, where a tornado devastated up to 30% of the city, according to Gov. Jay Nixon.

"We still believe there are folks alive under the rubble and we are working hard to save them," Nixon said Monday afternoon, nearly 19 hours after the tornado struck.

[Updated at 12:02 p.m.] St. John's Regional Medical Center was hit directly by the Joplin, Missouri, tornado and suffered significant damage, according to a statement from Lynn Britton, president of Sisters of Mercy Health System, which operates the hospital. One facade of the building made of glass was blown out, and authorities evacuated the medical center.

The hospital was treating 183 people when the storm struck, Britton said. It was unclear if any were injured in the storm. The patients were taken to hospitals as far away as Springfield, Missouri, and northwest Arkansas.

Structural engineers were on their way to Joplin to assess the building, where 1,700 people work, Britton said.

[Updated at 11:50 a.m.] CNN producer Eric Marrapodi was in Joplin, Missouri, when another wave of severe storms came through Monday morning.

"As lightning pops and thunder booms, you can see the locals flinch. It's likely too close for comfort after they lost 89 neighbors to a half-mile wide twister," Marrapodi writes.

[Updated at 10:57 a.m.] Eddie Atwood, 46, a freelance photographer in Joplin, Missouri, described the damage along the city's Main Street.

"I was walking down Main Street. Everything was so razed over it was disorienting because some of the streets you couldn’t even tell where you were at. After living in Joplin all my life, it was like living in the 'Twilight Zone.'"

Zach Tusinger, 26, an attorney in Joplin, lost his aunt and uncle in the tornado. They lived five blocks from St. John's Hospital.

“Everybody’s going to know people who are dead,” he says. “You could have probably dropped a nuclear bomb on the town and I don't think it would have done near as much damage as it did.”

[Updated at 9:52 a.m.] Rev. C.J. Campbell was at home when what he described as an "evil monster vortex" hit his home at 5:55 p.m. CT. "Within 60 seconds" his house crumbled around him, he told CNN. "We thought we were going to be sucked up the chimney."

[Updated at 9:35 a.m.] More severe weather is moving into the Joplin, Missouri, area, Monday morning. A severe thunderstorm warning is in effect until 9 a.m. CT (10 a.m. ET), the National Weather Service said. The weather service said waves of severe storms were forecast for the area through Wednesday.

[Updated at 9:01 a.m.] President Barack Obama has ordered Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate and an incident management team to Joplin, Missouri, to coordinate federal disaster relief assistance efforts.

The request comes in the wake of a powerful tornado that devastated the city Sunday night, White House spokesman Nicholas Shapiro said Monday.

Shapiro said Obama also called Gov. Jay Nixon to "personally extend his condolences and to tell all of the families of Joplin affected by the severe tornadoes that they are in his thoughts and prayers."

[Updated at 8:47 a.m.] Waves of strong thunderstorms are in the forecast for southwest Missouri into Wednesday, the National Weather Service reports.

[Updated at 7:42 a.m.] Isaac Duncan was nearby in Carl Junction, Missouri ,when he heard reports that the tornado was literally around the block. So he and a friend ran into the closest place they could find - a convenience store.

"When we went in the electricity was already out there and were about 20 people huddled down," Duncan told CNN. "Everyone was just deciding what to do."

Video shot inside the fridge shows little - it is dark and hard to see - but the screams and shrieking pleas for "Jesus, Jesus," "heavenly father," and "help" can be heard.

The tornado ripped through the store - and even part of the refrigerator.

"Basically the only thing left standing was the cooler that we were in," Duncan said. "Everything around it was gone. (The tornado) actually tore a few holes in the refrigerator. That's what we crawled out of."

[Updated at 7:29 a.m.] Residents of Joplin, Missouri, emerged from shelter to a city that was unrecognizable.

"It was horrible. I couldn’t even take pictures on my phone. I was crying,” resident Sara Ferguson told The Joplin Globe.

[Updated at 7:16 a.m.] In addition to the 89 people killed by the storm officials have identified about 400 people also have "relatively serious injuries" from the storm, Governor Jay Nixon told CNN.

Nixon said there are also 2,000 buildings with "very significant damage."

"It hit in the worst possible place in that town," Nixon said. "It has two functioning hospitals - it knocked one out."

Nixon echoed the sentiment of other emergency workers that the biggest priority is going to be the search and rescue mission as the sun rises.

"We're going to have to sweep the entire area (so that) we don't miss anyone," he said.

Because power is out and gas lines were leaking causing fires to spark throughout the night, Nixon said getting a clear view of how bad things are is also a top priority. Nixon too, urged residents not to go outside unless they needed to so that emergency responders could focus on getting to those in need and assessing the damage.

"It's going to be a stark view as dawn rises in Joplin, Missouri," he said.

[Updated at 7:02 a.m.] Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr told CNN that when he got the call to go out and assess the damage he was hailed by a citizen at a local church who needed help - inside were several victims. Some were dead, others alive.

"We had to remove some deceased citizens to access those people who needed help," Rohr told CNN.

Mayor Mike Woolston said based on what he's seen so far "the devastation is pretty widespread."

As the city mounts their search and rescue efforts, Woolston issued a warning to residents: "If you don't have to be out on the street, stay home."

[Updated at 6:42 a.m.] The town had about 20 minutes warning before the tornado struck, Mitch Randles from the Joplin Fire Department said during a news conference.

He said normally there is about a seven to ten minute warning before the tornado hit.

Randles said his teams first look at the impact showed the tornado "devastated the central part of Joplin."

Officials from the town said their immediate focus was going to be a search and rescue effort.

[Updated at 6:38 a.m.] Between 25 to 30% of Joplin, Missouri suffered major or significant damage from the tornado, Mitch Randles from the Joplin Fire Department said during a news conference.

"Its cut the city in half," he said, when explaining how the damage was impacting officials' ability to comb through the city for residents in need of help.

He echoed the news that 89 people were confirmed dead, but said "I anticipate that number will climb."

"I anticipate we still have people trapped in structures," Randles said.

[Updated at 6:31 a.m.] Officials in Joplin, Missouri said Monday morning that 89 people died as a result of the tornado that "tore a destructive path" through the city.

Both state and local emergencies have been declared.

The tornado's path was at least 1 mile wide in some areas and possibly larger in other areas.

"We know many people are hurting at this time and it is indeed a sad day in Joplin," City Manager Mark Rohr said during a press conference.

Rohr said the tornado went through the "major residential part" and a "large commercial district" before it moved out of town.

"We have seen homes impacted as well as schools businesses and one of our local hospitals," Rohr said. "All have been affected, but we are pulling together in our emergency operations center."

Rohr said while there is much to be done, and they don't have a specific number of people unaccounted for, the city is doing everything they can to get to those in need.

"We will recover and come back stronger than we are today," he said.

[Updated at 6:27 a.m.] A Red Cross worker estimates 75 percent of Joplin, Missouri was destroyed by last night's vicious tornado that hurled debris as far as 70 miles away.  The high school, the hospital, a couple of fire stations and a strip mall - all in shambles.  Governor Jay Nixon has called in the National Guard.

Officials are expected to hold a press conference at 6:30 a.m. to update the press on the situation on the ground. Aerials and videos show massive destruction across town.

soundoff (226 Responses)
  1. polondia Jolo

    We keep exploiting, now bombing and killing those ancient peoples, in theose ancient lands, this will be the retribution for us to suffer. Torrnadoes, Super hurricanes, historic floods and earthquake of high magnitudes. What goes around come back around. Why have'nt we gotten that yet? Oh yeah, our arrogance.

    Try this test. NO WARS FOR A YEAR! DO EVERYTHING WE CAN TO MAKE PEACE WITH ALL THE COUNTRIES AND ITS PEOPLE ON THE PLANET. Then let's see what happens. We'll have nothing to lose if we try. We'll surely have more to lose if we don't.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Polondia please pass me the pipe!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • bijou

      Every time the world asks Israel to uproot its people we will see damage happening to this country it happened in 2005 with katrina when the US forced Israel to uproot its people from lands it had settled in rightfully. This Twister happened right after Obama's speech forcing Israel to withdraw to the 1967 lines. these twister will continue and natural disaster will continue to happen until the world gives Israel 100% support until then you will see death and destruction so wake up!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • EMERSE

      I really doubt world peace will stop mother nature from doing what it has done since the begining of time.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dean

      I think you are displaying a bit too much arrogance regarding your knowledge of what God wants or does. Now go off and predict when the Rapture will happen so we can continue to ridicule you...

      May 23, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Obama's speech doesn't "force" Israel to do anything, any more than your fantasy beliefs make them reality. In any case, our "war on terror" is really Israel's war that we've been fighting for them because of the very foolishness you're advocating here. THEY are to blame for more terrorist backlash than anyone else in the world.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rob

    My thoughts are with you, people of Joplin. Be strong, morn the dead but rejoice in your survival. There are good works to be done, good deeds and kindness are our most potent tools to aid us through dark times.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. muzza

    Being British I am unsure of this but isn't it mandatory for there to be Tornado shelters, like WW2 air raid bunkers perhaps, in these towns and cities built in 'Tornado Alley' If not, why not? Repect to those who perished.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anne

      I agree, It should be manditory. I have been telling people this for years. I live 1n hour from Joplin and it was headed this way last night. So Scary and so many have no place to go

      May 23, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • SE Kansas

      Many homes have basements – but no tornado shelters are required. Typical warning lead times for tornadoes are around 10minutes and typical tornado alley areas are spread out horizontally vs vertically, so even if you had public tornado shelters sprinkled throughout the city (costly), the time to get loaded in a car, park at a shelter & then get into a shelter would probably be too late anyway – and most folks know better than to be in a car when a tornado is about to hit as it will toss cars around like toys.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • laveau

      A good question. Not every geography that is in 'tornado alley' is in a position to have underground shelters or basements. Central Texas, as an example is built on bedrock, a hole more than 5 inches deep requires dynamite. Above ground shelters like the WW2 British bomb shelters wouldn't hold up under the winds of a tornado. There is the technology to build above ground shelters but they would be to expensive for the average homeowners.

      And to those of you who blame the victim – all it takes is one drunk driver and you'll be begging for some compassion

      May 23, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. MIkinAZ

    I do feel for the victims of this NATURAL disaster and wish them well and hope that they pull together in their recovery...but "Evil "Monster" I will not go along with. There is nothing "Good" or "Evil" about a NATURAL DISASTER...it is not a "SUPERNATURAL DISASTER" and no amount of praying is going to help anyone. Efforts would be best spent in search and rescue efforts, medical assistance, food and shelter...and finally in with the enormous task of dealing with the insurance for those that have it. "Praying" or wishing "Blessings" upon them is a cop out – if you want to help – you'd be better off doing something real and tangible.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dean

      Great post.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lourie

      To the religious... everything beneficial is "the grace of God" and everything that is harmful is "the evil of Satan". That is the reason... if the same event that benefits them causes harm to someone else they become smug condescending idiots claiming it's because god either loves them more or the other people must be horrible sinners with no faith. I remember sitting in church as a child listening to adults request prayer so the lord would cause satan to take his evil hand off their washing machine so it would work again.

      "Good = god and bad = satan" is the most primitive thing man still does in this day and age.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • judd

      geez, are there others as insightful as you? Let me write down those words of wisdom.

      May 23, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Monique

    If you are worried about loved ones from Joplin – the tornado line is now up and running. 417-659-5464. I got this information from KSPR.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. scir91onyoutube

    how is this evil? god made this mess. funny how people refuse to admit that.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • MIkinAZ

      There is nothing "Good" or "Evil" about a NATURAL DISASTER...it is not a "SUPERNATURAL DISASTER"

      May 23, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • GSP27

      You need to re-read the Bible, if you have ever read it at all. I seriously doubt God gets kicks off of hurting people. Good or bad, weather happens, we just have to deal with it. Blaming God or the Devil seems pretty silly and naive. Yeah it's horrible what this country has been dealing with weather wise lately but that's life. Hey, why didn't you just blame the 89 year old that predicted the end of the world couple days ago.....? At least in your eyes he would be more tangible.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sakhile Vanqa

    Can anyone please tell me if Missouri Southern State University (MSSU) was affected, and if so were there any student casualties; my sister is there.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • RB

      I don't believe MSSU was damaged. The tornado was further South than the campus and have not heard of any damage to the residence halls. I used to attend MSSU and live appx 45 min from campus so am familiar with area. Hope this helps

      May 23, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Greg

    I, just wanted to comment on the stupid weather person on the cnn early news broadcast, she emplied that people were not responding to warnings, I have never seen her before how stupid of her to since NBC reports that sirens were not working people died in the hospital were the choosing not to respond, maybe she should go out in the field and report on these stories rather than guess, 89 people have died all because she says they did not respond to to warnings what an idiot.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. bijou

    Every time the world asks Israel to uproot its people we will see damage happening to this country it happened in 2005 with katrina when the US forced Israel to uproot its people from lands it had settled in rightfully. This Twister happened right after Obama's speech forcing Israel to withdraw to the 1967 lines. these twister will continue and natural disaster will continue to happen until the world gives Israel 100% support until then you will see death and destruction so wake up

    May 23, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dean

      There were a number of tornadoes earlier this year, killing over 300. What was the reason for those, since you seem to understand God's mind so well? I think you are displaying a bit too much arrogance regarding your knowledge of what God wants or does. Now go off and predict when the Rapture will happen so we can continue to ridicule you...

      May 23, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Do you think that repeat-posting the same tripe somehow makes it true? In any case, Obama's speech doesn't "force" Israel to do anything, any more than your fantasy beliefs make them reality. In any case, our "war on terror" is really Israel's war that we've been fighting for them because of the very foolishness you're advocating here. It is their pig-headedness and arrogance that is to blame for the terrorist backlash we're seeing all over the world. You believe in their cause? Then YOU move there and fight for them, zealot. Don't expect the rest of us to sacrifice our children to your idiotic cause.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Karen

    I feel so bad for these people and I am keeping them close in my thoughts and prayers. I have been thru Joplin many times in my childhood. My hometown in Alabama was devastated on April 27th. I'd be in Joplin helping if not for helping my own state (and the need to keep my job). I do know by experience that in the worst of times, we see more of the best in people but we also see & hear the worst in people (those that scam, loot & make unkind remarks). I'm clinging to the BEST! Please help these folks if you are able and remember them in prayer. They have a very long road ahead of them.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mike

    Thanks to all for providing the links for contact information.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Joey

    I raised the "storm-cellar" (shelter) question at the time of Tuscaloosa's disaster.
    I grew up in a tornado-prone area when there were many such shelters.
    We have become too careless.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • MikeGCNY

      judging by all the bark that was ripped off trees that were not blown over, I question how effective a storm shelter would be. I grew up in the midwest so I too am familiar with this kind of weather. And for the current toll to be at 89, they were lucky. Now I fear for the people that are trapped in their storm cellars as the roof that protected them is undoubtedly compromised, they are now trapped and in the rain.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • DenverGrl

      The problem is that in some areas of the country storm cellars cannot be built. That may not be the case in Missouri, but where I grew up in TX, you couldn't put a storm cellar in because if you dug down that deep you just hit water. The water table was really high. I guess it depends on where you live. Perhaps the answer is to have a steel walled room in each house that people can go into in the event of a tornado. The convenience store refrigerator saved those people's lives!

      May 23, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. KC Wildman

    Thanks, CNN, for helping the local officials with shutting down the county's emergency responders online link. They said the national media was using the info they were using to try to get to the scenes of where they needed to be. You may or may not be the ones, but anyone in the media needs to get out of the way of rescue crews and let them do their jobs. Just report from a helicopter, or whatever, but I heard them say the biggest obstacle that could easily be controlled was the fact the media is getting in their way.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. EMERSE

    You sir are an idiot! Not everyone can afford to build a shelter and if we all took your advise we would have to leave the planet! So gather your things and build your shelter on mars along with the rest of the ignorant people on this planet.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Records

    Does anyone know if the old Joplin Bonnie and Clyde hideout is still intact or if it was raised by the tornado??

    May 23, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • donald

      raised?

      May 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bates

      @Donald It's a term used to describe the destruction of a large construct like a building. To raze a building, is to bring it down or destroy it. He just spelled it wrong, it should have been "razed".

      May 23, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      "RAISED" is perfectly acceptable. DUH.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Believe they were looking for 'razed' as in: 1. to demolish (a town, buildings, etc.) completely; level (esp in the phrase raze to the ground)

      May 23, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Runswithbeer

      I was watching the live radar of this storm and it did the exact same thing the Jarrell Tornado did, the storm broke out of the line and crossed south against the squall line. When it did that I knew it would be a terrible storm. The difference was that the Jarrell Storm also had a Micro-burst slam into the storm from the North and that really spun it up. I didn't see that in the Joplin storm. My prayer go out to the good folks of Joplin , having personally been the victim of a Tornado I can feel their pain and shock.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Henry J. Inman

      Does anyone know if St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church was hit? Damage? Thank you.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
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