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
Governor Jay Nixon’s office announced Tuesday morning that the death toll from the massive and powerful tornado on Sunday had risen to 118, making it the single deadliest tornado in United States since official records began.
According to the Storm Prediction Center, since United States official tornado records began in 1950, there have never been as many deaths from one single tornado.
However, there are unofficial United States records of more deadlier tornadoes beyond 1950 that stretch as far back as the 1800s, but death tolls from those tornadoes are only treated as estimates since record-keeping of tornado deaths was erratic back then.
Until this week, the single deadliest tornado officially on record with the Storm Prediction Center in the past six decades was a twister that killed 116 people in Flint, Michigan in 1953.
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 ***118***
But even using those records, the Joplin tornado would still be one of the deadliest, coming in at number 8, making it the deadliest single tornado since 1947.
Another single tornado record dates back prior to official record-keeping, though. That is the Tri-State Tornado of March 18, 1925 in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. It killed an estimated 625 people in the roughly 219 mile path.
For Mississippi, the deadliest tornado on record occurred on February 21,1971 with 58 deaths, before the year of 1950 but using unofficial United States records, the tornado that struck Natchez on May 6, 1840 was overall the deadliest in the state, killing an estimated 317 people.
The 118 deaths in Joplin brings the overall death toll from this past weekend’s tornadoes up to 121 with two other deaths recorded in Minneapolis, Minnesota from an strong EF-1 or EF-2 tornado and one other death in Reading, Kansas an EF-3 tornado with winds up to 140 mph.
This weekend’s killer tornadoes bring the overall United States death toll so far this year to nearly 500 with at least 482 deaths, making it the deadliest year for tornadoes in the United States since 1953, when 519 people died. The deadliest year for tornadoes in the United States occurred in 1925, when an estimated 794 people were killed.
The National Weather Service says the Joplin tornado was a three quarter mile wide, EF-4 with winds up to 198 mph as it tore an estimated six mile path across the city.
This is the second EF-4 or F-4 tornado to be confirmed in Jasper County but the first to strike Joplin since records began back in 1950.
In addition to the 118 people killed, more than 1000 were injured.
Authorities warned that the death toll could climb as search and rescue workers continued their efforts. Search and rescue workers found 17 victims alive during the day on Monday in tornado damaged areas.
As much as 30 percent of the town was damaged or destroyed, including more than 2,000 buildings.
Among the structures damaged, a major hospital, a nursing home and several schools, firehouses and large stores, including a Wal-Mart and a Home Depot. Water treatment and sewage plants were also hit by high winds, and authorities cautioned residents to boil water.
The month of May is overall the most active month for tornadoes in the United States with averages of over 200 and 300 reports per year.