May 22, 2011 was an extremely active day across the Southern Plains and Midwest. Seventy-five tornadoes were reported. There was also over 760 hail and wind reports. The first tornado hit Minneapolis at 2:15 pm, killing one and injuring 30. Eight tornadoes were reported in Iowa. Fortunately, there were no deaths or injuries associated with the Iowa tornadoes.
But on this day America remembers the Joplin, MO tornado, the 7th deadliest tornado in US history. It struck Joplin around 5:34 pm. The tornado was believed to have reached wind speeds over 200 mph and traveled for 22.1 miles. It was rated as an EF5 tornado (the same magnitude that hit Parkersburg on May 28, 2008). Here is an excerpt from the storm survey conducted by the National Weather Sevice that emphasizes the magnitude of the tornado: “Numerous (over 15,000) vehicles of various sizes and weight including buses, tractor trailers and vans were tossed over 200 yards to several blocks, with some being crushed or rolled beyond recognition. Some of the vehicles were compressed and wrapped around the few remaining trees, while some were rolled into balls…Steel trusses from some of the buildings were rolled up like paper, and concrete walls toppled.”
One hundred and fifty-eight lives were lost while over 1,000 were injured in Joplin alone. Some pictures of the destruction are below.
So what was learned from the Joplin tornado? There was a tornado warning issued 19 minutes before the tornado struck Joplin. The National Weather Service conducted a study into why so many lives were lost. One reason was that residents questioned the warnings and sirens. Interviews from Joplin residents indicated that a majority did not take cover immediately. Many waited until they realized the magnitude and severity of the situation. However, many did take cover correctly and still perished due to the tornado’s strength. Nevertheless, shelter should be taken immediately during any tornado warning. Click here for more about the National Weather Service’s survey in Joplin.
Joplin continues to rebuild today from the devastating tornado that demolished their city. There is a Facebook page completely dedicated to the rebuilding of Joplin called Joplin, MO Tornado Recovery. For more pictures and information on the Joplin tornado, click here.
This post was written by Denice Pelster on May 22, 2012