Monday, May 23, 2011

Breaking News: Fierce Level 4 Tornado Strikes Joplin, Missouri

Photo from CNN/Getty Images

From Denny: At almost 200 mph a tornado obliterated half of the town of Joplin, Missouri, of about 50,500 population. This is some stunning video to witness such complete devastation from a level four tornado.

Current estimates are that at least 116 people have died in this sudden fierce storm last night. The storm touched down at 5:41 PM last night. The town had only 24 minutes after the warning sounded to get to safety.

The three-quarter wide twister cut a four mile swath through this town. It is the fiercest storm to hit America in 61 years since the National Weather Service started keeping records. More tornadoes are predicted today to strike the area again.

While the rain pounds relentlessly there are rescuers and volunteers from 40 agencies fanning out across the town to help. Sadly, the town's hospital, St. John's Regional Medical Center, was hit directly and badly damaged. The storm was so severe that residents 70 miles away found X-rays from the hospital in their driveways.

More severe damage to the town's infrastructure like phone lines and cell phone towers were down, making it difficult for rescuers to communicate. It reminds me of what it was like during Hurricane Katrina.  Communication is everything and can mean the difference between surviving the disaster or dying because help could not get to you in time.

The water company is asking people to conserve while they assess the damage. Currently, another 18,000 are out of power. The interstate shut down for 12 hours since a dozen tractor trailers were overturned.

Photo of demolished hospital by Charlie Riedel/AP

From survivors:

From C.J. Campbell: "Then it got louder and louder until it sounded like about 50 semi tractor-trailer trucks fully laden going about 70 miles per hour about 10 feet outside the front door. The floor began to vibrate and then shake very violently and seemingly buckle, and we thought we were going to be sucked up the chimney."

From CNN iReporter Andrew Boyd: ""I remember at one point walking around the Walmart to the south and seeing the area that used to be Home Depot, and just standing there not knowing what to think or do."

From Joplin High School Principal Kerry Sachetta, the seniors had just finished graduation when the tornado struck: "It just looks like it's been bombed from the outside in. It's just terrible."

Rescuers and law enforcement pouring into the area are:

* 1,000 law enforcement officers from four states
* 500 fire fighters
* 140 National Guard members
* search-and-rescue teams

President Obama has already ordered FEMA to coordinate federal efforts for the devastated town.

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