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. Andy (Bill) Summers

    Frankly, I don't appreciate the low life nature of many of these posts. I'm seeking information re particular
    people I noticed , with favor, Al Farid's post and so put my on. Then, I saw this other inappropriate stuff.
    This site needs to "get with it" concerning what's relevant to those of us with serious information requests.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Henry J. Inman

      Here's a good site from the American Red Cross that helps find people. It's not perfect, but it's something: http://blog.newsok.com/red-dirt-ruckus/2011/05/23/how-to-find-loved-ones-in-joplin/

      May 23, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda

      As I read these posts, I see such differences in personalities and temperaments, that I'm truly amazed. For those that realize it's a time for concern for other people, I thank you on behalf of my neighbors to the southwest of me. For those that would use this forum as a means to "one up" others rather than show compassion, I say "Shame on you"!

      Rolla, Missouri

      May 23, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Meleloke

      I wholeheartedly agree with Andy (Bill) Summers! PLEASE, people, have a heart when posting re disaster stories like this. If you don't have a heart and feel compassion for those who are seeking info or expressing concern, go post your heartless comments somewhere else. CNN, I implore you, monitor these comments. Some people seem to make a sport of rude and hurtful comments, and this is simply not the time or place to be rude to your fellow humans.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amy

      We pray for the victims and survivors. We ask that Governor Jay Nixon use this time to reflect on saving money buy disabling Tornado sirens across the state. A few days from now the sirens will be silenced in the town I live in...perhaps this tragedy will have a purpose.

      May 23, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. MdawgMike

    I don't think anyone here is a trained psychiatrist, but we understand how obsessions can manifest into a passion blinded from any common sense. I wish you luck in your treatment program, but stick to the compassion for the victims instead of your political dribble.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. sue

    Where exactly is it that a person can live with NO worries about what mother nature can do? Tell me.
    No tornadoes, floods, blizzards, earthquakes, tsunamis, drought?
    We all live where we live and we do the best we can.
    Mother Nature is in charge. We have to try to adapt. And again, where would that place be exactly?

    May 23, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sondra

      Hi Sue
      I heard Idaho is a pretty calm place.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Henry J. Inman

    Looking for the status of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church. Anyone know if it was hit? Thank you.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ginger

      Henry, My family reports that my brother Jene was at St Peters Mass when the storm hit. He was OK and went from there to Freemen Hospital to help.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Missouri resident

    Thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who was affected by last night's devastating storms, especially Joplin residents and those who've lost loved ones. While many of you are spouting off passive aggressive insults towards complete strangers, there are real people suffering and enduring loss that shouldn't be wished upon your worst enemy. No matter what your personal beliefs are, or what God you pray to, it wouldn't hurt to show compassion and save the cowardly remarks for another time and (online) place.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Thomas John

    I feel very sorry for those effected by this .I am praying to God they should recover soon.
    I have an workable IDEA how to build safe Houses, which will not be effected by the Twister Tornados .
    It is very simple. I am ready to transfer this "Know How" ,if anybody ready to give me some kind of compansation.even a home at this place and a Job.
    Please contact me on this E mail. thomasfieldview@yahoo.com

    Thank yo

    May 23, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Elizabeth Weggesser

    This is The (Prayer or Blessing Against Storms). I've said it many times over the last 20 years and it's worked every time. Never as bad as it could have been. The same system came our way and was down graded just afteer I said the prayer. Here it is. Pass it along to everyone you know.
    Jesus Christ a King of Glory has come in peace.+ God became man,+ and the word was made flesh.+ Christ was born of a Virgin.+ Christ suffered.+ Christ was crucifird.+ Christ died.+ Christ rose from the dead.+ Christ ascended into Heaven.+ Christ conquers.+ Christ reigns.+ Christ orders.+ May Christ protect us from all storms and lightning.+ Christ went through thier mist in peace ,+ and th word was made flesh.+ Christ is with us with Mary.+ Flee you enemy spirits because the Lion of the generation of Juda, the Root of Daviv, has won.+ Holy God!+ Holy Powerful God!+ Holy Imortal God!+ Have Mercy on us !!!

    God Bless you All ! ! !

    May 23, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. whatsupdok

    Chaos. Hey , it is what it is. God has nothing to do with it . Nature is non selective . That is the nature of nature.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Joey

    This natural disaster is unrelated to political or religious arguments.
    Please respect the anxiety and sorrow of those actually involved.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ruth

    God does not send a tornado to a town, it just happened. God is not mean like that. Be nice, these people nedd fellowship, care and love right now.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Janie

    More severe storms are lined up heading to Joplin. Say a prayer for those still in harms way and the rescuers. An Okie

    May 23, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Praying for Joplin

    A collection site will be set up in Springfield this afternoon at the Bistro Market accepting blankets, shoes, clothing, toiletries, and nonperishable food items. They've donated their gated parking lot until Friday night so we will be there from 9am – 8pm the rest of the week. Donations will be taken to Mt. Hope Church in Webb City.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Smooth

    I just think that all the people in Seattle need to stop complaining about the weather here

    May 23, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. EMERSE

    I believe that all of the ignorance in this country gathers here.

    May 23, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. popeye

    After reading these post here today I've come to the conclusive decision that the census of the majority is uncaring ! It is very disheartning to read these post amidst such tragedy , if these are the views of true Americans then I'm ashamed to call my self one , for I have compassion and the heart to feel sorrow for these people in need . May god bless !

    May 23, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Dude

      Don't let the 15 year olds depress you, they will grow up one day.

      May 23, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
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