Back to school in Joplin – Wednesday is the start of the school year for students in Joplin, Missouri, a bittersweet time for a town still rebuilding from a May tornado that killed more than 150 people.
For Joplin's 2,200 high school students, reopening the schools means separating grades that usually study in the same building. Ninth- and 10th-graders will go to an existing middle school, while upperclassmen will attend classes at a mall.
Officials say the mall was the only place big enough to house the students. The school district spent $5.5 million to convert a 95,000-square-foot retail facility.
"Every time I drive by it, it's still really sad," said senior Lydia McAllister, looking at the ruins of Joplin High School, one of 10 school buildings damaged or destroyed by the storm.
The death toll from the tornado that devastated much of Joplin, Missouri, on May 22 has risen to 153, the city said Monday.
The count includes one person who died as a result of a rare fungal infection contracted after the person was injured by the tornado, Jasper County Coroner Rob Chappel said. Two other people who died also had the infection, but in those cases, injuries from the tornado were the primary causes of death, Chappel said Monday.
Also included in the toll is Riverside police Officer Jefferson Taylor, who was struck by lightning the day after the twister. Taylor, one of the many emergency personnel from outside Joplin who assisted the city, would not have been on duty there were it not for the tornado, Chappel said.
The previous death toll, reported last week, was 151.
The tornado cut a path of destruction nearly 14 miles long - nearly 7 miles of which were in city limits - and up to 1 mile wide. The southwest Missouri city has a population of about 50,000.
More than 9,200 residents of Jasper and Newton counties have filed for federal assistance, the city said.
The following are the names of the 153 victims:
Ma De Lourdes Alverez-Torres
As tornado cleanup continues in Joplin, Missouri, graphic artists in St. Louis are lending their talents to the effort.
The marketing and design firm Moosylvania is selling original prints that its art directors designed that pay homage to Joplin. The prints are $25 each and can be viewed and purchased here through PayPal. All proceeds benefit the United Way Small Business Fund, said Brook Boyer, who came up with the idea for the campaign.
Her family is from Joplin.
"I wanted to do something, and I asked our art directors if they would help," she said. "They all jumped in. I was so touched by how hard they worked on this. I'm really proud that we could do our small part to help."
The artwork has been available online for a week, and 200 prints have been sold.
To contact the United Way and find out how to help Joplin tornado survivors, visit their website.
The circus was in Joplin last week, but no one in the tornado-ravaged Missouri town was really interested in seeing clowns or anyone on a flying trapeze.
An elephant, though, had a very enthusiastic audience.
A CNN affiliate in Kansas City reports that the Piccadilly Circus allowed one of its elephants to help move debris from the May 22 twister that leveled whole neighborhoods. Many folks cheered, but some were outraged, saying the elephant was being mistreated.
Editor's note: CNN producer Matthew Hoye shares his personal thoughts on covering the devastating tornadoes in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Joplin, Missouri.
In the past month, I've covered two of the worst tornadoes to hit the U.S. in decades.
The devastation and heartbreak in Tuscaloosa and Joplin are truly indescribable. I met so many people who, I think, could not process what had happened. I watched them climb through rubble in the unrecognizable landscape, searching for something familiar among shredded clothing, soaked and mildewy photos and smashed electronics. What looked like garbage to me was a keepsake to them. A torn family picture, a hand-me-down table or a random cell phone with pictures of the neighborhood were scattered among the miles and miles of twisted metal. There were brief smiles as mementos of the life that had been there just yesterday were found.
Jim Richards found his wife's immigration green card a couple of houses away from his previous home and, amazingly, his iPad buried under an overturned Jeep. He laughed as he told me the iPad cover was destroyed, but the iPad, with all his family photos, e-mails and contacts, worked just fine.
University of Alabama student Emily Fuller was disappointed that her spring semester had to end early in April after a tornado ripped through Tuscaloosa. It was devastating when she finally made it onto campus from her off-campus house to see people walking around dazed after the twister. Forty-two people lost their lives, including one of her sorority sisters.
But as the 20-year-old drove home to Joplin, Missouri, a few weeks ago, she started to feel better. This was a chance to spend more time with her family and get a head start on a peaceful summer.
On May 22, Fuller was working out at Joplin's gym. It had been raining most of the day. All the local stations where warning that a tornado was likely.
"I was getting really worried," she said. "I've always been very scared of storms and after everything, I got in my car and drove home immediately." She called her mom who was out running errands. "I told her to just get home," she said.
Stephen Fuller, Emily's father, was at home. He knew his daughter was getting worked up.
"When she was a little girl and there was a thunder storm, she liked to gather all her blankets and come sleep next to us," Emily's father Stephen Fuller told CNN.com. "Emily was very, very anxious when this storm rolled in."
She didn't want to see a familiar big black blob hovering closer and closer to Joplin. She didn't want to hear the wind screeching or watch the thick, strong trees that had stood for years in her yard bend like rubber.
When the first of two tornado sirens went off, Emily's parents didn't act very alarmed. They weren't moving very quickly.
The lights went out.
More storms in Midwest – Many people across the midsection of the country are going to spend Memorial Day cleaning up, after severe storms hit Michigan, Indiana, Iowa and Illinois overnight. More than 100,000 people in those states are without power. "It sounded like a freight train." That's the refrain of this past week. Missourians described the tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri, on May 22 that way, and now someone is using the same description in Michigan. Winds of more than 80 mph hit Battle Creek, Michigan. Hundreds of flights were canceled in Chicago.
Twin suicide bombings in Afghanistan – Suicide bombers targeted security forces and foreign civil affairs workers in separate blasts Monday in the western Afghanistan city of Herat, killing at least five people and wounding 33, a police official told CNN. The attacks occurred within minutes of each other just blocks apart in Herat, an area where U.S. military officials have hinted American troops would be withdrawn by July because it has been largely free of violence.
The second bomber blew himself up outside the main gate of a compound that is home to a Provincial Reconstruction Team, an attack that allowed gunmen to rush inside. Afghan and NATO-led forces fought the gunmen, Afghan government official Harif Taib told CNN. A police commander later said the situation was under police control and the gunfight had ended.
Endeavour heads home – The space shuttle undocked from the international space station and is scheduled to land early Wednesday morning. There is one last shuttle mission after Endeavour's journey: Atlantis is scheduled to launch in July.
Those who have survived a devastating tornado in Joplin, Missouri, should do their utmost to live up to the example set by those who died while helping others escape the storm, President Barack Obama said Sunday at a memorial service for the victims.
Obama spoke about two of the heroes from the twister, which barreled into Joplin packing 200-mph winds a week ago Sunday.
One of them, Dean Wells, directed his co-workers and customers at Home Depot to safety, returning again and again for more people until a wall of the store fell on top of him, the president said.
And Christopher Lucas, 26, a manager at a Pizza Hut, herded employees and customers into a walk-in freezer, finding a bungee cord to hold the door shut from the inside and wrapping the other end around his arm. Lucas held on as long as he could, Obama told the crowd Sunday, "until he was pulled away by the incredible force of the storm. He died saving more than a dozen people in that freezer.
"There are heroes around us all the time," the president said. "And so, in the wake of this tragedy, let us live up to their example, to make each day count, to live with a sense of mutual regard, to live with that same compassion that they demonstrated in their final hours. We are called by them to do everything we can to be worthy of this chance we've been given to carry on."
The tornado swept a 13-mile path, the National Weather Service said Sunday, raising its earlier estimate of six miles.FULL STORY
A Newton County, Missouri, official said authorities would begin streamlining the process of identifying bodies Saturday in Joplin in the aftermath of a killer tornado.
"The decision was made that if a person can make a positive ID, let’s say for instance … piercings or tattoos," said Mark Bridges of the Newton County, Missouri, coroner’s office, "[Saturday] we’re gonna start the process of allowing those people to view the bodies of the loved ones."
"We’re going to go ahead and start releasing those bodies," he said.
Already frayed nerves reached a boiling point Friday in Joplin, Missouri, as families trying to retrieve their dead loved ones were stalled by cautious medical examiners meticulously trying to sort remains.
The deadliest tornado ever recorded in the U.S. smashed through the city Sunday, killing 132 people and leaving more than 156 unaccounted for.
When Gene Hatch reported to work at the National Weather Service’s Springfield, Missouri, office on Sunday afternoon, he knew it was going to be bad.
The national Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, had updated its forecast for southwest Missouri from a slight risk to a moderate risk of severe weather - meaning a stronger possibility of thunderstorms, hail and tornadoes.
The storm eventually produced the deadliest tornado in recorded U.S. history – destroying much of Joplin, Missouri, killing at least 132 people and leaving 156 people missing or unaccounted for.
Hatch, a meteorologist at the Springfield office since 1999, was one of two radar operators on duty that day. He remembers watching as the tornado formed and passed over Joplin. He knew immediately it had been destructive.
“One of the things you can kind of see on radar is what’s called a ‘debris ball,’ where the actual reflectivity patterns on the radar will actually begin to show the debris that’s being lofted by the tornado.
“It looks like a little ball on the tail end of the hook,” he said. “And that was fairly evident fairly quickly as the storm moved through Joplin.”
Officials will release a list of 232 people officially reported missing or unaccounted for following the tornado that destroyed much of Joplin, Missouri.
"Our goal is to get that number to 0," Andrea Spillers, deputy director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety said Thursday. "We will dedicate as much state resources as needed, around-the-clock, to make sure all of those family members that have loved ones that cannot be found are connected."
Authorities urged residents who may have been reported unaccounted for to let officials know they are okay by calling following number: (417) 895-6868. Those needing to report someone missing to law enforcement should call (417) 659-5464.
[Updated at 11:10 p.m. ET] Storm-battered Joplin, Missouri, continued search-and-rescue efforts Wednesday, three days after a killer tornado tore through the city of 50,000 people.
Even as cleanup crews with frayed nerves sifted through the rubble, twisters and severe weather churned through America's heartland. More than 60 Oklahoma counties were under a state of emergency Wednesday due to a tornado watch.
The power of a top-scale EF5 tornado, with winds of 200 mph, was nowhere more evident than in Joplin, a city at the intersection of Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
On Tuesday, residents and business owners literally picked up the pieces as they reflected on the twister that has killed at least 125 people and left more than 1,500 unaccounted for.
After crawling and climbing over mangled wooden debris, a couch and a water heater blocking the staircase, we made it, to what used to be the second floor of Frank Wood's home in Piedmont, Oklahoma.
"This is it," Wood said, looking out over his 12-acre lot. "We used to have a beautiful view."
Frank Wood and his two children survived a direct hit on their home by a tornado that ripped across Oklahoma on Tuesday afternoon.
The Woods' home was originally three stories tall, but the top floor is nowhere to be found. Frank Wood's pickup truck is a mangled mess, sitting in a ditch 300 yards from the driveway.
The family survived because of a "safe room" built into the garage. Frank Wood rushed into the safe room and locked it.
He says the room is so fortified that he had no idea how bad the damage was until he walked out and realized the top two floors of the house had been blown off.
As the family rushed into the safe room, they weren't able to grab their dog, Roxie. After the storm passed, the kids rushed out to find the tan boxer, but she was gone.
But Wednesday morning, Frank Wood finally got some good news. An oil rig worker almost two miles away had found Roxie wandering around in a field, unscathed except for a small scratch on a front leg.
Editor's Note: CNN's Ashley Fantz, who grew up in Missouri, is on the ground in Joplin talking with residents who survived the tornado.
As a little girl growing up in Missouri my parents rushed me into our basement several times when the tornado sirens went off. They always did a good job of making it seem fun, like we were going to play down there. Each time we emerged, luckily there was no damage. I don't recall anything terrible happening.
So as I got older and the sirens sounded, I usually went outside to watch the night sky light up. Dark clouds always pass, I figured. I rarely thought about getting hurt. Like a lot of people who grow up here, I figured the odds were on my side.
I heard the same refrain from folks in tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri.
It was just going to be a big awful storm and it would pass. Everything would be fine - that's what survivors told me over and over as they stood on the splinters of their homes.
Trees on one block were decapitated. A car door hung 30 feet in the air from one of the huge old sycamores that had refused to give up its thickest limb.
An older man, looking dazed, stood on a swath of insulation. Charles Richardson - with red suspenders neatly holding his Carhartt jeans in place - wore a backpack oxygen tank, the tubes running into his nose. His beige work shirt was covered with dry patches of blood. As I got a few feet from him, I saw he was crying. I stopped.
"Come on now, come on," he said.
Interview me if you need to, his tone said, just ask your questions and leave me alone because this is hard enough.
He blew his nose with a pink handkerchief and told me he had lived in Joplin his whole life.
"I've seen tornadoes come and go," he said. "This one came when I happened to be in my garage. It came so fast and I went and ran from my house but it was there and it was on me."
A tornado on Sunday killed at least 125 people in Joplin, Missouri, authorities said Tuesday. Here are stories of some of those who survived the storm:
Rick Morgan: I usually ignore the sirens
Rick Morgan says he came close to doing Sunday what he normally does when he hears tornado sirens in Joplin: ignore them. Had he done so this time, he says, he probably would have died.
He was in a store, intending to buy some milk, when the sirens started Sunday.
"The store manager says, 'Everyone who is in the store, you need to go back to the produce cooler, because the sirens are going off,'" Morgan recalled Tuesday for CNN. "Well instead, following my M.O., instead of going to the produce cooler, I think, 'Well, I'll just drive home.' "
As Morgan approached the door, the store owner protested. And then four people on the outside "ran screaming into the store," Morgan said.
President Barack Obama said he'll be traveling to the tornado-damaged state of Missouri on Sunday.
A tornado that cut through the city of Joplin on Sunday tied for the single deadliest twister to ever hit American soil since the National Weather Service began keeping records 61 years ago. At least 116 people have died.
"We are going to do absolutely everything we can to make sure they recover," said Obama, in England on Tuesday to meet with Britain's royal family and huddle with top politicians.
Volcanic ash: Volcanic ash from an Icelandic eruption is expected to reach London's Heathrow airport - the world's busiest international air travel hub - around lunchtime on Tuesday, Europe's air traffic control organization said.
Concentration of ash is expected to be low and it's not yet clear if Heathrow flights will be canceled.
The ash cloud is forecast to cover all of British airspace by 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, Britain's weather agency, the Met Office, said Tuesday.
Ash will be densest over Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England, the Met Office said. Heathrow is in the south.
Joplin tornado: As residents in hard-hit Joplin, Missouri, try to recover from one of the deadliest U.S. tornadoes on record, the National Weather Service warns the danger might not be over.
The weather service warns there was a 45% chance of another tornado outbreak – with the peak time between 4 p.m. and midnight Tuesday – over a wide swath, including parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nebraska and Missouri, including Joplin.
Netanyahu speech:Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will lay out his vision of a settlement with the Palestinians in a speech to Congress Tuesday morning.
His speech follows an appearance Monday night where he told the main U.S. Jewish lobby that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict persists because the Palestinians "refuse to end it."
In his remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Netanyahu said Israel wants peace, "because we know the pain of terror and we know the agony of war."
But, he added, "this conflict has raged for a nearly a century because the Palestinians refuse to end it. They refuse to accept the Jewish state."
He also repeated his argument that Israel's pre-1967 borders were "indefensible."
As residents in hard-hit Joplin, Missouri, try to recover from one of the deadliest U.S. tornadoes on record, the National Weather Service warns the danger might not be over.
The weather service warns there was a 45% chance of another tornado outbreak - with the peak time between 4 p.m. and midnight Tuesday - over a wide swath, including parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nebraska and Missouri, including Joplin.
Monday night, the weather service said, "A large cluster of thunderstorms is currently affecting portions of Missouri."
Earlier Monday, an armada of government agencies had converged on the Joplin area to assess the damage and stage the difficult days ahead.
As weather conditions deteriorated, agency workers sifted through rubble searching for survivors. The death toll – 116 as of Monday night - matched the record number of dead in a twister that struck Flint, Michigan, on June 8, 1953.