UPDATE: United States tornado death toll reaches 520 after more bodies found in Joplin
UPDATE: Death toll from horrific EF-5 Joplin, Missouri tornado climbs to 132
After reviewing the extensive damage in Joplin, Missouri, the National Weather Service (NWS) upgraded the tornado from an EF-4 to the highest tornado rating on the Enhanced Fujita Scale of EF-5 with winds in excess of 200 mph.
According to NWS, the EF-5 tornado rating was based on numerous well-built residential homes that were found to be totally destroyed. A bank, Walmart Supercenter, Lowe’s and some other major constructed businesses were also heavily damaged to totally destroyed.
NWS said the violent tornado was a “multivortex”, containing two or more small and intense centers of rotation orbiting the larger tornado, a very rare occurrence, as it moved across parts of Joplin just after 530 pm CDT Sunday evening.
The tornado reached up to three quarters of a mile wide and tracked on the ground for an estimated six or seven miles across the city, destroying large parts of Joplin and leaving over 120 dead and more than 1,100 injured.
As of the latest update from Missouri Emergency Management officials, 125 people are confirmed dead as a result of the EF-5 tornado, making it the single deadliest tornado since official record-keeping began in the United States back in 1950 and the 8th deadliest in United States history.
The deadliest tornado on record in the United States was on March 18, 1925. The “Tri-State Tornado” (MO, IL, IN) had a 291-mile path, was rated F-5 based on a historic assessment, and caused 695 fatalities alone.
Deadliest United States tornadoes
1. 18 March 1925 Tri-State (MO/IL/IN) 695
2. 06 May 1840 Natchez, MS 317
3. 27 May 1896 St. Louis, MO 255
4. 05 April 1936 Tupelo, MS 216
5. 06 April 1936 Gainesville, GA 203
6. 09 April 1947 Woodward, OK 181
7. 24 April 1908 Amite, LA/Purvis, MS 143
8. 22 May 2011 Joplin, Missouri ***125***
An estimated 8,000 structures were damaged or destroyed along the tornado’s path with damage estimates exceeding $1 billion dollars.
With nearly 500 deaths from tornadoes so far this year, this is the deadliest tornado year since 1953, when 519 people were killed. The deadliest year for tornadoes in the United States occurred in 1925, when an estimated 794 people were killed.
Several rare EF-5 tornadoes this year
The Joplin, Missouri tornado is the 4th EF-5 tornado to be confirmed so far this year, the most tornadoes of the highest rating of an EF-5 or F-5 tornado in a year since 1974, when seven occurred.
The other three EF-5 tornadoes were confirmed in Mississippi and Alabama during an historic tornado outbreak on April 27th that produced over 200 tornadoes and killed over 300 across the South.
Two of those powerful rare tornadoes alone were confirmed in Mississippi, the first time since 1990 that two of the highest intensity tornadoes were confirmed on the same day in the same state.
The EF-5 Smithville, Mississippi tornado was the sixth deadliest on record since 1950 to strike Mississippi.