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. (you have no) Common Sense

    You are sooooo smart, aren't you. Someone told you that the original use of the term "to decimate" was a procedure by which a group of Roman soldiers were punished for cowardice in battle by having every tenth soldier killed (hence deci-mate). Too bad no one told you that the word eventually took on a new meaning in the English language, one in which it makes perfect sense as CNN has used it in the story about the awesome destruction in Joplin, MO. (Oh, did you catch the way I totally used the word "awesome" in its original meaning?!? You'd better go look it up, Webster.)

    May 23, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  2. KY Heather

    You are an a$$. Why not say all people in CA should move due to earthquakes, all people should leave the Gulf states due to hurricanes, NY to the Caribbean should leave due to what the scientists say is a mega-tsunami that's guarenteed to happen due to the Canary Islands, anybody with five states of Yellowstone leave because of the volcanic activity there, hmmm, nobody should live in MI due to vast amounts of snow...

    May 23, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • They will never tell us the truth

      TBH I think you're just trying to be a troll, but on the off chance you're actually serious your "blame the victim for living there" argument is just plain stupid.

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

      Sometimes moving far away (out of state or out of that area of the country completely) is easier said than done. It takes $$ saved up to be able to move someplace to be able to look for work, to then settle your family down in a dif. part of the country. In this economy it is not only exceptionally hard to save up that kind of $ but the cost of living has gone up and the # of jobs have gone down. Plus if the person doesn't know anyone else in that other part of the country where they want to move to (like a relative they can stay with to help them get on their feet) it's not going to happen. These people are pretty much staying put where they are at... Most of the people in those said "high risk" areas do know how to respond in the event of there being a tornado, earthquake, flood, etc.. What if this was a person who was out food shopping or running errands and WHAM a Tornado pops up and they have 30 seconds to find a place to go get shelter.. They aren't exactly in their house or yard or in a building where there is a basement or shelter to hide in.. Stuff does happen like that and it's not their fault. Wrong place at the wrong time..

      May 23, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      We're living on the edge. I guess you live in someplace that has no natural disasters. You're gonna have to fill me in, cuz I've never heard of such a place..

      May 23, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christina333

      I agree! The earth is ever-changing and moving and weather patterns are sometimes extreme. That is life as we know it on our planet!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Goodness Gracious ...

      I'd say most don't live in ignorance. It's just that some have the money to do something about it. Still, yes, a few do have money and don't take proper precautions ... but then again "You can't stop Mother Nature," right? Sheesh. Well, if that's the case why would you ever say people can only "blame themselves" if it's out of their control anyway? Goodness Gracious ... what a world.

      Best of luck, Joplin! I hope to get up there soon if I can.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Frank Reich

    Ignore the trolls, there are some amazing videos of the tornado on codeword.org, I suggest you check them out.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Dana

      Insane!! Thanks everyone for all the great info. God bless the victims, you are in my thoughts and prayers!

      May 23, 2011 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  4. pawworker, please think before you post

    They do have such places - they are called basements, storm cellars, heck, there are even these things called tornado shelters in some buildings! But, according to you we should dig holes in the ground every ten feet or so, 'cause you know people do leave their homes every once in a while.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  5. Give up or change, please, CNN

    Dear CNN,

    Please stop this discussion feature, or at least be more diligent in checking for abuse. Unfortunately there are a fair number of people with: a) too much time on their hands, hence they post all to frequently and b) too few brain cells, hence their posts are asinine, if not downright malicious and hateful.

    At the very least, give us a button/link that will allow us to temporarily remove their posts until you can decide whether we were correct or not in our judgment. Oh, and while you're fixing your site to include that new feature, please add another that lets us "Report stupidity." Some posts are just painful to read, even if they are abusive.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • themexcellentone

      Agreed!

      May 23, 2011 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      If enough people click 'report abuse,' they will be deleted. If you reply, they stay. Don't retort, report.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Abudu Rahman

      Stop being silly, this forum is open to anyone to voice their opinion as long as it's not profane, inciting violence or belittling others. If you don't like it don't read it.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • mbychows

      I would have clicked the "Report Stupidity" button at the bottom of your post.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  6. Elvis

    They remind me of the incident where CNN was covering a traffic accident in Atlanta and the camera panned out where the wreckage was visible. There was a lady trapped in the front seat, looking at the camera. She had been trapped for over 15 minutes. The camera crew/reporter probably never thought to actually help the lady. She died when the gas tank exploded.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      Got a link, or just making stuff up?

      May 23, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  7. Please

    OH FOR GODS SAKE..................TAKE A XANAX ANGEL.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  8. KC

    Does anyone know who to contact about volunteering to go to Joplin and help with the relief effort? My son's girlfriend has family there (all safe thank goodness) but they want to go out from here in CA and help out.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Lori green

      We in our church are on our way with money, clothing. food, and water.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • May

      Have them contact the family, then just go and start helping. Can buy air matresses, take along and sleep on the floor of the relatives.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Jaimee Cleghorn

      @KC...We are being told here in the STL area to contact the American Red Cross. They are in dire need of Doctors, Nurses, Firefighters, EMS workers and basically anyone that can help with recovery, rescue and clean up. This is the number for the Red Cross for the Joplin area...866-206-0256. I am sure that anything you can do will be much appreciated.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Lori green

    and you would know this how? Save your comments jerk

    May 23, 2011 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  10. zak webster

    Nature is not an "EVIL MONSTER"

    May 23, 2011 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Maevis

      You have obviously never been affected by a tornado.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Debi

      Zak-I have been through dangerous weather conditions and I couldn't agree with you more. Mother Nature is not an evil monster and deserves our respect.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  11. Lori green

    I am so sorry for those in Missouri. We are organizing a canned food and bottled water drive and will take the donations directly to where they are needed most. Those of you on here who have said hateful things, get off your butt and help instead of spreading hate.

    May 23, 2011 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  12. curtis

    not to be mean or anything, but I wonder how many people that died over the weekend were laughing at the thought of the "rapture."

    May 23, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Unfortunate Reality Jones

      The ones who weren't idiots, probably.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  13. LivingInVA

    Elvis: or maybe they wanted to but were told it was too dangerous and that the professionals would be there soon.

    May 23, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • v.draco

      And this is one old hillwoman who has a history of ignoring authority and doing what I feel to be right. But I guess you can't capture the 'tragedy of the story' without being a heartless SOB. You can be human or a reporter.
      I grew up in the Ozarks, storms and all I love it there. My heart goes out to everyone there. Please don't forget all the animals that were also affected. If you can please send donations for the Joplin Humane Society!! They really need help and donations of food, crates, cat litter, cardboard beverage flats (for disposable litter pans), bedding (towels, etc), leashes, collars, bottled water, food bowls. PLEASE remember those with no voice, they are especially helpless during times like these.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
  14. Fred Evil

    "The camera crew/reporter probably never thought to actually help the lady."
    Probably not, not with trained professionals with proper equipment already working on it. Did the news crew have a spare jaws of life on hand?!

    May 23, 2011 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  15. Yes.... really!

    How's that; "clinging to my guns and religion thing" working out fer ya? (head-nod and wink)

    I bet the people in Joplin aren't lookin fer sum change, now are they? Who needs the gov'ment? Not us hick folks! Keep yer damn federal hands off the relief efforts of Joplin!

    They don't want no Obamacare! Not now, not EVER!

    May 23, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • LuvUSA

      You are heartless....this has absolutely NOTHING to do with politics. Watch a tornado rip through your home and you lose everything! Have some decency!

      May 23, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • ilovephotography

      some ppl are just so ignorant... thank you for standing up for these people who have lost everything, some, including their lives. may you be blessed.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Nathan

      Don't live in areas where people write comments as dumb as the one above.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karen Clark

      How does anyone "get ready" for a tornado. They hit at random times in random areas. It is not always possible to be prepared to survive any act of nature.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patiat

      Stop it. I'm an atheist and don't buy into religion either, but this just isn't the time to make fun of or get snarky with people over a tragedy.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
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