[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.[cnn-videoÂ url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2011/05/26/natpkg.joplin.closet.cnn"%5D
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.
John Dotsonâ€™s Cherry Berry yogurt bar was open for just nine days before being leveled in Sunday night's twister.
Dotson, his wife and employees survived by huddling in the back office and restrooms.
Fred Ferguson said 36 years of his life's work went up in a violent whirl when the twister roared through his insurance business.
The sole employee in the building survived the tornado, he said, as did the vital records in a file cabinet.Â Ferguson also said he was able to salvage the office computer, which heâ€™ll get his son-in-law to check out.
Also sifting through rubble Tuesday were Henry and Cecelia Beveridge, who were staying with Cecelia's elderly mother when the storm hit. Though much of the house was demolished in the storm, the mother survived by sitting in a pantry, and Cecelia and Henry survived by huddling in a closet.
Standing in the closet, she heard a sliding glass door crack.
"I was like, 'Weâ€™re in for it. I knew then that we were in trouble,'" she said. "So we just stood huddled in here, and the next thing we knew, the roof was off, and we were getting hail and rain and everything on us."
â€œI had my arms locked around my husband, and I was just saying, 'Please, dear God in heaven, just let us all get out of this alive. Thatâ€™s all I ask. Just let us get out of here alive.'"
The nearby living room, dining room and kitchen were heavily damaged, and the master bedroom has no wall left. But the three came out relatively unscathed.
"All I could think of was we were going to be sucked out. â€¦ But for whatever reason, it didnâ€™t do that," she said.