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. JAN

    if you haven't seen the tornado videos on they are amazing

    May 23, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joey

    @ Al Farid:
    I want you to know that you are in my thoughts as you wait for news of the young woman whom you love.
    Try not to assume the worst, as you don't know anything yet.

    May 23, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt Glowacki

      Should building codes be revised to require strong shelter area in public buildings like Home Depot shown?
      It wa whole flat, I guess more people would have a chance to save their lives if there is sturdy concrete zone available.

      May 23, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sheryl Ann Lewis

    Thank you for keeping us informed during this tragic event.Continue to post links to organizations that will be able to help the people of this city! When Don L. broke the news last night...I have been checking in from Canada.To hear him repeat the tweets he was getting from people looking for eachother,friends and family...was heart wrenching.I think that your coverage has been the most sensitive of ANY news channel.Thank you for your excellent reporting and hats off to the crews that make it happen.

    May 23, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jane lunar

    i was looking at the videos on and i just cant believe the amount of destruction in some of those videos.. thank you to whoever posted that website. i'm gonna be donating money to the red cross as soon as i can.

    May 23, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. HMStork

    Act of Nature or God's Cruise Missile?
    In a secular world, people have difficulty relating righteous living with human conduct. The destruction of the environment, greed and political manipulations produce disasterous effects, and therefore nations have to rethink and re-elect people who place the interest of mother earth first.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. steve

    Not once have I heard anything on any of the broadcast media, nor read anything in the print media about a building code in tornado alley mandating either partial or full basements or a small tornado shelter inside the home. Building a small shelter inside the home using cinder block, steel door with the structure secured to the home slab is not rocket science. What is wrong with the local governments in tornado prone states? Get your act together. Change the building codes and keep people safe. Tornados come every season.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
  7. Traci

    How do we find a way to contact any1 to look for lost loved ones of Joplin? I have a friend who has a sister there. Hes worried. Please let me know what i can do to get them intouch with each other. Thank you.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:27 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jaime ramirez

    family reunion celebrating a graduation when tornado hits in joplin. please watch the video and spreaf the link.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  9. David L.

    Our hearts and prayers go out to the people that were devastated but the recent harsh weather.

    I have to warn people that the weather change to include the winter and spring weather is going to continue, because of the Ash from the volcano has cooled the atmosphere in the northern hemisphere. So we will see another harsh winter and more violent storms. State and local governments should be prepared for a continuance of this.

    And YES we will still pray for those who are affected.

    I’m not trying to scare people we have to be prepared. Historically harsh winters fallow such volcanic eruptions. (reference “year without a summer” )

    May 24, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • David L.

      And Krakatoa in 1884 the weather took 5 years to get back to normal.

      May 24, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. amber-from-joplin

    Some people on here need to grow up. 75% of our city is destroyed and over a hundred are dead and many more missing including my 15 month old nephew. Please continue to pray for us in our time of great need as we continue to search for suvivors and rebuild our city. Thank you.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel J Vanatta

      amber from joplin we will do more than just keep you all in prayers we will help you out anyway we can.

      May 28, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Gio

    Can we stop or disrupt a tornado using Ultra Sonic Sound Wave? Does scientist has experiment on this kind? Using Sound to disrupt a powerful tornado.. Maybe someone from CNN could ask some scientist..

    May 25, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  12. Anonymous

    Thanks for all the coverage in AL, CNN. not

    May 27, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Anonymous

    "Twister's Fury" ...anything to take the focus off of Alabama...

    May 27, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Daniel J Vanatta

    For every persons lose is a pain and tear that will never go away. Joplin stay strong help is here and more is coming we will do all we can to help you out. You are our friends, family, and love ones and we will not let you down. I'm asking friends familys and fellow bikers to stand up and come to your aid. For the dreams that are turned to nightmares hold you heads hight we can still make these nightmares turn back into dreams come true. Its not going to be easy because of our lost one's but we must live on for them and make their dreams come a realty. And for those who are holding up signs saying it was gods truth and saying god is cleaning the liers out. You are the liers and dirt that we will not stand by and let you do this to familys, friends, and love one's. God would not do this to his childern, we will show you god cares and love these people. Through us god works his love and power and we will help anyone in need. I'm proud to be american. and all americans deserves the right to live.

    May 28, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Observer1290

    Obama shut down the weather forecasting satellites that could have warned of this disaster.
    Obama is either a liar or insane.

    May 30, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
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