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Monday, May 23, 2011

The Joplin MO Tornado of May 22, 2011

The last time I was in Joplin for any length of time was in the Spring of 1971- after an EF-3 tornado struck on May 5th of that year.

Working as a freelance news reporter for then-Top 40 radio station WHB- my first wife and I witnessed first-hand the devastation- pain and sorrow of a major tornado striking a medium-sized city.

Only 1 death occurred with that tornado- with about 50 injured.

Slightly more than 40 years later- the toll from the 1971 tornado in both human casualties and damage would be surpassed...

My heart sank Sunday evening around 6 p.m. as I read tornado warning statements from the National Weather Service that a large and damaging tornado had again struck Joplin.

As I write this at 6:30 a.m. Monday morning- 89 people are confirmed dead in what must surely be rated as a high-end EF-4 or an EF-5 twister.

Ms. Rittenhouse had attended a Christian rock concert at Joplin's Memorial Hall just last month and of last night- Memorial Hall had been turned into a triage center for the hundreds of wounded Joplin residents.

Fire stations- schools and a large hospital were either heavily-damaged or destroyed.

Same with hundreds of homes- apartments- businesses and churches.

Probably a thousand vehicles damaged or destroyed too- many unrecognizable as to their make and model.

The NWS office in Springfield issued warnings with more than a dozen minutes to spare before the twister hit- still the toll of dead and injured seem too high (as was the death toll from the Southern U.S. "Super-Duper" tornado outbreak on April 27).

I was ingrained with the awesome power of Mother Nature at the tender age of 4-1/2 when the parents took us on a motor tour of tornado-devastated Ruskin Heights in 1957.

I have been first-in to towns that have been struck by major tornadoes and have talked to survivors who didn't- at first- take the warnings seriously.

Like me- they quickly became believers that the weather can kill you if you're not paying close attention.

PLEASE- for your and your loved ones' sake- when tornado weather threatens and warnings are sounded for where you live- take the warning seriously- VERY seriously.


Material items can be replaced- life cannot.

NOTE: As of September 20- the death toll from the Joplin MO EF-5 tornado had reached 162.


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