Posted on 24 May 2011
Tying it for the single deadliest twister to ever hit American soil since the National Weather Service began keeping records 61 years ago, The toll from the tornado that ripped through Joplin soared to 116 on Monday, a city official said.
City Manager Mark Rohr told reporters that people from more than 40 agencies are on the ground in the southwest Missouri city, with two first responders struck by lightning as they braved relentless rain and high winds searching for survivors. (Rohr did not give any immediate word on the rescuers' condition.)
By Monday night, they'd found 17 people alive -- a stark contrast to the fact that the number of fatalities is unmatched since a tornado struck Flint, Michigan, on June 8, 1953.
"We're going to cover every foot of this town," Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said from the National Guard Armory in Joplin. "We are ... optimistic that there are still lives to be saved. But (first responders) have seen a tremendous amount of pain already."
The Sunday-evening tornado chewed through a densely populated area of the city, causing hundreds of injuries as it tore apart homes and businesses, ripped into a high school and caused severe damage to one of the two hospitals in the city. Based on preliminary estimates, the twister ranked as an EF-4 with winds between 190 and 198 mph, National Weather Service director Jack Hayes said.
"Everybody's going to know people who are dead," said CNN iReporter Zach Tusinger, who said his aunt and uncle died in the tornado. "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."
The nightmare may not be over for Joplin or other parts of the United States, with the weather service warning about more potential disaster on Tuesday.
The National Weather Service warned 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, Missouri and Nebraska. The Storm Prediction Center placed several large cities in the most high-risk area, along with other cities including Kansas City, Missouri; Dallas; Topeka and Wichita, Kansas; and Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma.