Descriptions of the Top Ten US Killer Tornadoes

#7: The Joplin Tornado

Counties: Newton / Jasper / Newton, MO
On Sunday, May 22, 2011 an EF5 tornado cut a mile wide path across the unprepared city of Joplin, Missouri with catastrophic results. The result was the loss of 158 lives (not including plus three "indirect" deaths), the most since tornado forecasting began in 1953. At least 1,150 people were injured. The deaths can be attributed to poor house construction, the size and intensity of the path, confusion as sirens went on, went off, then back on again, the lack of basements and below ground shelters, and general belief that Joplin was somehow made immune from tornadoes by local topography. The result was deaths in a wide variety of buildings. Fatalities occurred in 59 different homes. Nineteen people died in a nursing home Four died in the ICU of a hospital. At a Home Depot, 30 people survived as one wall collapsed outward, 8 died as another wall collapsed inward. A Wal-Mart, with about 200 people, was ripped in half, but with just three deaths. Eleven died in churches, but only two in mobile homes, which are generally not permitted as residences within the city limits. A total of about 7,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed with a record three billion dollars in damage. Most of the deaths were in buildings that recorded EF3 or above damage. The extensive government report noted no previous tornado deaths in the Joplin area, using only official government data back to 1950. A check of the information in the non-government Significant Tornadoes, would have shown six killer tornadoes in the Joplin area, and many others in adjacent Cherokee County, Kansas prior to 1950. The Joplin total ranks 7th on the all-time US killer tornado list... and was the worst since the Woodward, Oklahoma tornado in 1947. Some members of the survey team suggested that an EF4 rating would be more appropriate, due to poor house construction.

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