UPDATE: Joplin, Missouri tornado deadliest United States tornado on record; 117 deaths
UPDATE: At least 116 killed, 1000+ injured in historic Joplin, Missouri tornado
A similar horrific disaster to powerful and deadly tornadoes that hit Smithville, Mississippi and Tuscaloosa, Alabama on April 27th was repeated on Sunday during an unfolding outbreak that sent a massive tornado through the southwest Missouri town of Joplin, killing nearly 100 people and totally destroying numerous homes and buildings.
The massive tornado, believed to have been up to one mile wide, tore an estimated four mile path across the southside of Joplin, taking direct aim on a hospital packed with patients and a commercial area including a Home Depot construction store, Walmart, numerous smaller businesses and restaurants and a grocery store.
Jasper County Emergency Management Director, Keith Stammer said an estimated 2,000 buildings were damaged and or destroyed in the city.
Authorities confirmed 89 are dead Monday morning during a news conference and anticipated that number to rise.
Joplin City Manager, Mark Rohr
It is indeed a sad day in Joplin. It is with a heavy heart that I report that we have 89 confirmed deaths due to the tornado.
Several are still trapped in the 25-to-30 percent of the city devastated by Sunday’s storm, according to the Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management.
Among the worst-hit locations in Joplin was St. John’s Regional Medical Center. The staff had just a few moments’ notice to hustle patients into hallways before the storm struck the nine-story building, blowing out hundreds of windows and leaving the facility useless.
St. John’s patients were evacuated to other hospitals in the region, said Cora Scott, a spokeswoman for the medical center’s sister hospital in Springfield, Missouri.
In the parking lot, a helicopter lay crushed on its side, its rotors torn apart and windows smashed. Nearby, a pile of cars lay crumpled into a single mass of twisted metal.
Winds from the tornado carried debris up to 60 miles away, with medical records, X-rays, insulation and other items falling to the ground in Greene County, said Larry Woods, assistant director of the Springfield-Greene County.
Travel through and around Joplin was difficult, with Interstate 44 shut down and streets clogged with emergency vehicles and the wreckage of buildings.
Emergency management officials rushed heavy equipment to Joplin to help lift debris and clear the way for search and recovery operations.
Governor Jay Nixon declared a State of Emergency and the Missouri National Guard was deployed to the scene.
FEMA was also already on the scene by late on Sunday, working with state and local agencies to start the rescue and recovery effort.
President Barack Obama issued a statement Sunday night sending condolences to families of those who died in storms in Joplin and across the Midwest. He commended the “heroic” efforts of those who are responding to the disaster.
The same storm system that produced the Joplin tornado spawned tornadoes along a broad swath of the Midwest, from Oklahoma to Wisconsin including another deadly tornado that struck Minnesota.
Spokeswoman Sara Dietrich said the death was confirmed by the Hennepin County medical examiner in Minneapolis, where a tornado moved across the city Sunday afternoon, damaging at least 100 homes and buildings.
She had no other immediate details. Only two of the 29 people injured there were hurt critically.
Parts of Wisconsin was also hit hard by the outbreak of tornadoes on Sunday.
La Crosse County Emergency Management estimates at least 200 homes and businesses were damaged by a tornado that tore a path about three to four blocks wide and a mile in length across the city.
La Crosse County sheriff’s dispatcher Tim Vogel described the damage in the city as “significant” but said there were no immediate reports of serious injuries.
The La Crosse mayor declared a State of Emergency Sunday night.
At one time on Sunday, parts of 11 states were under tornado watches with the National Weather Service issuing over 110 tornado warnings through late Sunday night.
According to the Storm Prediction Center, over 45 tornadoes were reported in what was the biggest outbreak of the month so far.
This deadly outbreak of tornadoes followed a rash of tornadoes on Saturday, one of which left one person dead in Reading, Kansas.
The estimated tornado deaths of at least 89 in Missouri and the confirmed deaths in Minneapolis and Reading add to the overall United States tornado death toll that is just over 360 so far this year from earlier tornado outbreaks across the South, the deadliest year for tornadoes in over 80 years. This includes tornado deaths in Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Virginia, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.
The month of May is historically the most active month for tornadoes in the United States.