Updates to this story posted below.
Joplin city officials announced early this morning that there are 89 known fatalities from the massive tornado that gouged a four-to-six mile-long path through the heart of the city shortly before 6 o’clock last night. About 400 people are known to have been injured seriously enough to require medical treatment.
Coroners expect the death toll in the Joplin tornado to reach at least 100. City officials announced early this morning 89 confirmed deaths. Temporary morgues have been set up throughout the city. Bodies are being photographed and fingerprinted for identification. Emergency responders from 40 cities in four states have rushed to the city, where the city emergency management director says as many as 7,000 buildings have been damaged in some manner, about 2,000 of them destroyed or severely damaged in an area that makes up one-third to one-fourth of the city. Governor Nixon has declared the area in a state of emergency. He has called National Guard troops to Joplin to help with search and rescue, communication, and other services. The Joplin tornado is one of 48 tornadoes reported nationwide yesterday. Officials estimate the tornado was three-quarters of a mile to a mile wide when it ripped into the city with winds of 200 mph. The Weather Channel reported last night the twister sucked debris to a height of 18,000 feet. Medical records and X-rays from the shattered St. John’s Regional Medical Center have been found 70 miles away. Although the focus is on Joplin, other parts of southwest Missouri were hit by high winds, rain, and tornadoes lst night, too. Roaring River State Park in Barry County, was ordered evacuated early this morning because of high water. A tornado in McDonald County, in the far southwest corner of Missouri has damaged a home. Houses and mobile homes are reported damaged int he Galena area, in Stone County. Possible tornadoes also were reported on the ground near Pierce City and Freistat in Lawrence County. Twenty semitrailer trucks and cars were blown off Interstate 44 in Jasper County — but no serious injuries have been reported. WORST TORNADOES IN MISSOURI HISTORY: This list of the worst tornadoes in Missouri history was compiled several years ago. We are not aware of storms since then that would make the list until the Joplin tornado.
- St. Louis – May 27, 1896 (255 deaths)
- Joplin – May 22, 2011 (89*)
- Poplar Bluff – May 9, 1927 (87)
- St. Louis – Sept 29, 1927 (72)
- Marshfield – April 18, 1880 65
- Six-county area / south-central & Southeast Missouri – May 30, 1917 (55)
- KC (Ruskin Heights) – May 20, 1957 (37)
- Kirksville – April 27, 1899 (34)
- Kansas City (Lathrop School) – May 11, 1886 ( 28)
- Cape Girardeau – May 21, 1949 (23)
- St. Louis – Feb. 10, 1959 (21)
The worst tornado in NATIONAL history began in Missouri but is not among the most severe in Missouri history. The Tri-State Tornado began in southeast Missouri, devastated southern Illinois, and finally blew itself out in Indiana after taking 689 lives, most of them in Illinois.
UPDATE: Some chilling first-person video shot at the FastTrip on 20th St in Joplin. Uploaded by izelsg. Can’t see much but the audio is frightening.
Video courtesy of Jeff and Kathryn Piotroski, TwisterChasers.com
UPDATE: Mike Ransdell –a photographer for the Kansas City Star– and a friend, got caught in the middle of the storm and took refuge in a Mexican restaurant in Carthage (town near Joplin), about 5-10 miles from where the tornado hit. Mike didn’t have his professional cameras with him and took this video on with his cell phone.