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The toll in the tornado that ripped through Joplin soared to 116 on Monday (Tuesday NZT), a city official said, tying it for the deadliest twister to ever hit American soil since the National Weather Service began keeping records 61 years ago.
City manager Mark Rohr told reporters that people from more than 40 agencies are on the ground in the southwest Missouri city, braving relentless rain and devastating wreckage looking for survivors. They found 7 people alive on Monday, he said, though the number of fatalities rose to a level unmatched since a tornado struck Flint, Michigan, on June 8, 1953.
The Sunday-night tornado chewed through a densely populated area of the city, causing hundreds of injuries as it tore apart homes and businesses, ripped into a high school and caused severe damage to one of the two hospitals in the city. Based on preliminary estimates, the twister ranked as an EF4 with winds between 190 and 198 mph, said National Weather Service director Jack Hayes.
“Everybody’s going to know people who are dead,” said CNN iReporter Zach Tusinger, who said his aunt and uncle died in the tornado. “You could have probably dropped a nuclear bomb on the town and I don’t think it would have done near as much damage as it did.”
The nightmare may not be over for Joplin or other parts of the United States, with the weather service predicting another tornado outbreak Tuesday.
The National Weather Service warned there was a 45% chance of another tornado outbreak — with the peak time between 4 p.m. and midnight Tuesday — over a wide swath including parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Nebraska. The Storm Prediction Center placed several large cities in the most high-risk area, along with other cities including Kansas City, Missouri; Dallas, Texas; Topeka and Wichita, Kansas; and Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Joplin is among them. Already, parts of the city of 50,500 were unrecognizable, according to Steve Polley, a storm chaser from Kansas City, Missouri, who described the damage as “complete devastation.”
Aerial footage from CNN affiliate KOTV showed houses reduced to lumber and smashed cars sitting atop heaps of wood. Other areas appeared to be nearly scoured clean.
“The particular area that the tornado went through is just like the central portion of the city, and it’s very dense in terms of population,” Joplin Emergency Management Director Keith Stammer said on CNN’s “American Morning.”
Damage to the city’s infrastructure was severe. Numerous phone lines and cell phone towers were down, making it difficult to communicate, state officials said. Empire District Electric Co. reported severe damage to its facilities and said 18,000 customers were without power Monday afternoon. Missouri American Water Co. asked customers to conserve water and boil what they do use.
– CNN has extensive coverage of this tornado. Read the entire story and view videos here
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