[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.
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.Â 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.
Editor's note: CNN producer Eric Marrapodi was on the ground in Joplin, Missouri, when the weather took another nasty turn Monday morning. Here's what he's seeing and witnessing as the sun comes up, but the storms keep coming.
It smells like fresh-cut lumber in Joplin, Missouri.Â It's the telephone poles, snapped like matchsticks.
We are taking cover in our live truck after the heavens opened up. There's a leak in the roof, but it's mostly dry.
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.
The beating rain will wash away some of the dirt kicked up, but it won't unbend the basketball backboard that went from vertical to horizontal during the tornado.
I still can't figure out how the wicker chair got under the car that's under the snapped telephone pole.