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.