Deadliest U.S. tornado since 1953 rips through Joplin, Missouri, killing 89

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:11 PM GMT on May 23, 2011

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The incredibly violent tornado season of 2011 struck another sickening blow last night, when a violent tornado carved a ½ – ¾ mile-wide path of devastation through Joplin, Missouri. At least 89 people died, hundreds were injured, and huge sections of the town virtually obliterated. Damage from the tornado is so severe that pavement was ripped from the ground, which is characteristic of a top-end EF-5 tornado with winds in excess of 200 mph. This was almost certainly a least an EF-4 tornado with winds over 166 mph, and the level of damage is so extreme that this is likely to surpass last month's Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado as the costliest tornado of all-time.


Figure 1. Cars stacked on top of each other in front of the heavily damaged St. Johns Regional Medical Center after the May 22, 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri. Note the pavement ripped up from the road and piled in front of the cars. Tornadoes powerful enough to rip up pavement are frequently classified as EF-5 with winds in excess of 200 mph. Image credit: Chris McCrillis, posted to Twitter.

The huge supercell thunderstorm that spawned the Joplin tornado formed over extreme southeast Kansas yesterday afternoon, along the boundary between warm, moist air flowing northwards from the Gulf of Mexico, and cold, dry air moving south from Canada. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center (SPC) had put the region in its “moderate risk” region for severe weather. As the supercell moved into Southwest Missouri, it spawned the tornado that roared through Joplin at 5:45pm CDT. This storm generated other tornadoes, straight-line wind damage, and flash flooding from torrential rains that exceeded six inches as it moved east southeast across Southwest Missouri. SPC recorded 48 preliminary reports of tornadoes yesterday, bringing the 2-day total for the current outbreak to 70. A tornado also killed one person and injured 22 in Minneapolis Sunday. Separate tornadoes killed one person each in Andice, Texas and Reading, Kansas on Saturday—the first tornado deaths in the U.S. since the April 25 – 28 Super Outbreak.


Figure 2. Radar reflectivity image of the supercell thunderstorm that spawned the Joplin, Missouri tornado, ½ hour after it devastated the city (circle with the “+” symbol.)


Figure 3. Radar Doppler velocity image of the supercell thunderstorm that spawned the Joplin, Missouri tornado, ½ hour after it devastated the city (circle with the “+” symbol.)


Figure 4. Satellite image taken at 5:45pm CDT May 22, 2011, when the Joplin, Missouri tornado was occurring. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Deadliest tornado since 1953
Yesterday's Joplin, Missouri tornado is the deadliest single tornado in the U.S. since June 10, 1953, when 94 people died in the Worcester, Massachusetts tornado. The previous deadliest tornado in the past 50 years occurred just last month, when 65 people died in the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham EF-4 tornado in Alabama. This year's tornado death toll now stands at 455, making it the deadliest year for tornadoes in the U.S. since 1953, when 519 people died. The deadliest year was 1925, with 794 deaths. That was the year of the deadliest U.S. tornado of all-time, the great Tri-State tornado, which killed 695 people in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana.

More severe weather today
NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has placed a large section of the Midwest U.S., including portions of Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, in its “moderate risk” region for severe weather today. The threat of tornadoes will not be as great today as yesterday, with today's main threat being large hail and damaging straight-line thunderstorm winds. However, I do expect we will see a dozen or so tornadoes today, and residents of the at-risk area need to keep in mind the deadly history of this storm system. The severe weather threat will continue into Tuesday, when additional tornadoes are likely over Oklahoma, Kansas, and Southwest Missouri. A severe thunderstorm roared through Joplin between 8:30am and 9am CDT this morning, bringing heavy rain, small hail, and wind gusts to 36 mph. Undoubtedly, this storm frayed some nerves, and the city will remain at risk of seeing more severe thunderstorms through Tuesday night.


Figure 5. Severe weather threat for Monday, May 23, 2011.

Links
The most remarkable audio I've ever heard of people surviving a direct hit by a violent tornado was posted to Youtube by someone who took shelter in the walk-in storage refrigerator at a gas station during the Joplin tornado. There isn't much video. We won't see a lot of spectacular videos of the Joplin tornado, since it was wrapped in rain and difficult to see.

Listen to my 12-minute interview on the historic April 2011 tornadoes for EarthSky.org, which aired on NPR earlier this month. I discuss how climate change might impact severe weather and tornadoes.

Our weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, has an excellent post on The World's Deadliest Tornadoes.

My 2008 post, Are tornadoes getting stronger and more frequent? The answer is--we don't know.


Figure 6. The Portlight relief trailer being loaded in Summerville, SC, in preparation for a journey to the April tornado disaster zone.

Helping out tornado victims
For those who want to lend a helping hand to those impacted by the widespread destruction this spring's severe weather has brought, stop by the Red Cross website, or portlight.org blog. Portlight has been very active bringing aid to the victims of this year's tornadoes.

Jeff Masters

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Wall Cloud (thomasanthony)
Rotating wall cloud coming through Perry Kansas. That speck towards the top is a helicopter.
Wall Cloud
Gran Tara by ketchum ok. (wick918)
The one that hit Joplin Mo.
Gran Tara  by ketchum ok.
Reading, KS (wheelingrabbit)
Reading, KS Grain Silo
Reading, KS

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A shelf cloud containing a thunderstorm approaches a tornado-ravaged neighborhood in Joplin, Mo., Monday, May 23, 2011.
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Quoting VAstorms:

Is there a link to that?


Its in the entry above,

Links
The most remarkable audio I've ever heard of people surviving a direct hit by a violent tornado was posted to Youtube by someone who took shelter in the walk-in storage refrigerator at a gas station during the Joplin tornado. There isn't much video. We won't see a lot of spectacular videos of the Joplin tornado, since it was wrapped in rain and difficult to see.


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Quoting NEwxguy:
If you ever wondered what its like to encounter a tornado,that recording of those survivors in that gas station walkin refrigerator is some of the most chilling video you will ever hear.You can't see anything,which makes it even more chilling.
Its amazing to think these same people are getting hammered again today, and maybe tomorrow.

Is there a link to that?
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Hurricanes have nothing on something like this. At least here in the United States.
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Courtesy of a Friend,

For those of you that are looking for loved ones, try these numbers.

Joplin Memorial Hall 417-623-3254, McCauly School 417-624-9320 and
Freeman Hospital 417-347-6656. These are all set up as Triage Centers
and remember to try back if they do not have the name on the list,
because the list changes.
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52. NEwxguy 8:47 AM PDT on May 23, 2011
If you ever wondered what its like to encounter a tornado,that recording of those survivors in that gas station walkin refrigerator is some of the most chilling video you will ever hear.You can't see anything,which makes it even more chilling.


I heard/saw that on the news this AM.... yeah, that made my stomach go up into my throat.... but, it was heartening to hear the young man say he loved everybody....
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The relative chances of getting a "direct" hit from these types of very destructive weather-nature events (tornado/hurricanes/earthquakes) is actually pretty small but the toll is great on those affected.

Please remember to send in donations to the various relief agencies (including Portlight) if you can to help the survivors; the same will apply later on down the road during hurricane season this year.
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If you ever wondered what its like to encounter a tornado,that recording of those survivors in that gas station walkin refrigerator is some of the most chilling video you will ever hear.You can't see anything,which makes it even more chilling.
Its amazing to think these same people are getting hammered again today, and maybe tomorrow.
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24 hour Radar loop,Springfield,Mo.

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The official start of Hurricane season. If you wouldn't have abandoned us for those couple weeks, you would have known. :-)

I didn't abandon you guys.... YOU get trolled and see how well you like it...it's not fun.... I'm just testing the waters to see if it's safe to come back inside....
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 171 Comments: 53787
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 171 Comments: 53787
Complete Update





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41. Skyepony (Mod)
India~ High velocity dust storms accompanied by thundershowers affected life and traffic in the state on Sunday. It was unprecedented weather for Pink City on Sunday afternoon when suddenly the sky became dark and life came to a standstill for almost an hour. Two people were killed while at least 12 others injured in mishaps due to dust storm across the state. Attributing the weather change that began on Saturday evening to the heavy upper air cyclonic circulation and passing of the western disturbances, the Met office said there would be no further change as dust storms and rain will occur in southern and western parts of the state in the next 24 hours. Jaipurities woke up to an overcast morning but acute darkness prevailed in Jaipur around 1.30 pm on Sunday when heavy dust storm lashed the city. Traffic literally came to a standstill for almost an hour. In order to avoid accidents bus services were halted in the city. It was so dark that drivers had to use headlights to manoeuvre their vehicles. "I have never seen such darkness in the afternoon. Though dust storm is a common here but this much of darkness was never witnessed," said Vishal Mandera, a city bus driver said.

The 90 km/hour dust storm also affected normal life in Jaipur as at Kachchi basti in Mansarover a three-year-old girl sustained grave head injuries after a hut collapsed on her. Life was affected in other parts of the state too as a person was killed after an 11- KV high tension line fell on him. He was killed on the spot and is yet to be identified. A person in Dholpur was killed while two others were injured after a wall collapsed. In Rajgarh fire broke out at many of the hutments after the heavy dust storm, however no loss of life was reported. The storm was followed by rain due to which maximum temperature in the city came don to 37.2 degrees Celsius. The city also witnessed a rainfall of 5.6 mm. Churu remained a maximum rainfall in the state as it received 21.6 mm and was followed by Pilani 10.2 and Sriganganagar 0.3. Denizens of the city witnessed abrupt power cuts that started since Saturday night and lasted till the very evening on Sunday. Many colonies in the city, including Mansarover, Jhotwara, Jawahar Nagar, Raja Park, Bani Park and Bapu Nagar, witnessed power cuts during wee hours due to which the call centre of power department remained busy. The situation worsened in many areas on Sunday since power cuts were already introduced for maintenance work at some of the stations till 1 pm and thereafter due to the dust storm again power went off. Finally the situation was brought to normal to some extent in the evening.
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Harold Camping emerged from his Alameda, California home yesterday to face reporters for the first time since the Rapture that never happened. Wearing a light jacket and speaking over chirping birds, Camping told the San Francisco Chronicle he was "flabbergasted" that the world did not end on Saturday. "I'm looking for answers," he told the reporter. "But now I have nothing else to say. I'll be back to work Monday and will say more then." Camping followers are similarly perplexed. "I don't think I am going to stop listening to him," one man added, heaving a deep sigh before continuing: "I don't know, I gotta listen to him on Monday, see what he says on the radio.
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and another weapon coming june 1

?
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Quoting PRweathercenter:
Good morning to all, my heart goes out to the tornado victims
Is that Hurricane Dean in your avatar.?
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nature attack again in USA, this video is frightening.... and another weapon to start june 1.
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Looks like all is quiet in the Tropics today! Ah!...Another calm day. Enjoy it folks...while you still can! ;)
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hey, leave the Hello Kitty Smart Car alone!

;)

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Good morning to all, my heart goes out to the tornado victims
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33. MTWX
Quoting NRAamy:
something tells me we ain't gonna make it till 12-21-2012.....

SPC has moderate risks for today, tomorrow, and will likely upgrade to moderate for wednesday, if this system keeps its current setup! These storms are rediculious! Relief can't move fast enough if this keeps up!
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Quoting Floodman:


You won't if that's what you're driving!

LOL
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Some rotation in Delaware County, OK-about to cross into MO. 2 counties S of Joplin.
A bit more E of Coffeyville, KS on the OK/KS line moving E towards Joplin.

Nothing too radical that I can see, fwiw.
A lot of rain.

Southern edge of the MCS would be a place to watch. Along the MO/AR border.
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Thanks for that link shores.
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Quoting NRAamy:
something tells me we ain't gonna make it till 12-21-2012.....


You won't if that's what you're driving!
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Laura ~ Here's something for you.

Emergency Radio Feed on UStream

It's not the same as the scanner, but at least its from the area. I presume there will be bulletins, etc. in the midst of the chatter. It will give you something until the feed comes back.
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something tells me we ain't gonna make it till 12-21-2012.....
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SPECIAL
05/23/11 08:58 (JOPLIN - ) WEATHER SPOTTER REPORTING FUNNEL CLOUD, NO TOUCHDOWN AT THIS TIME, SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WITH HAIL AT THIS TIME [ILL279]
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Quoting reeldrlaura:
EMC, LIVE FEEDS JUST WENT DOWN.......got anything else?

I knew it would be a matter of time. There is nothing else from the impact area at the time. Most of the search teams switched over and were operating on private mode this morning. One of the last things I heard was requesting more body bags to a staging area and to the field morgue that was established last night. Maybe the feed will come back on board later.
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That video/audio of those survivors is one of the most chilling things I've ever heard. Glad they made it.
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Quoting ElConando:
I heard about what had occured on the News earlier. Tornadic activity has certainly been far more devastating than usual.
This is horrible. More tornadoes today...Horrible
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I heard about what had occured on the News earlier. Tornadic activity has certainly been far more devastating than usual.
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I was flying from Chicago to San Antonio and had to divert around the line of storms that hit Missouri. Quite an incredible sight to see out the plane window at the storm. Didn't know how bad it was obviously until later that night, but it was quite honestly one of the more amazing views I've ever seen of a storm.
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EMC, LIVE FEEDS JUST WENT DOWN.......got anything else?
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This thing was huge
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This moisture should make it into the U.S..I hope Texas gets and not flooded areas.
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 171 Comments: 53787
That's Worcester Massachusetts Dr. Masters, not Worchester. It's ok us Bostonians forgive you! Here's a link to the Wiki article for that particular outbreak.
Link

Stay safe again out there today, another active day ahead of us.
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 171 Comments: 53787
One of the smaller cells from that line passed over Kankakee, IL around the same time yesterday. It was probably one of the more violent thunderstorms I've been in. The lightning was very frequent and the thunder-booms were setting off car alarms constantly. We also had some dime to quarter sized hail where I was and high winds.

What a wild spring this has turned out to be.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.