UPDATED: May 23 at 6:02 p.m.
At least 116 are confirmed dead and almost 25 percent of Joplin is gone. That death toll is expected to rise. The half a mile wide twister was on the ground for nearly six miles. Powerful winds ripped homes and businesses to shreds and tossed around cars and semi-trucks. St. John's Regional Medical Center took a direct hit. Workers say they only had a few minutes warning to get patients into hallways before the storm hit. Hospital staff have moved the 180 patients to other facilities. The same powerful storm system triggered a series of twisters and dangerous storms from Oklahoma to Wisconsin.
Monday, Joplin residents are still in shock over the devastation. We got a chance to speak to some Tri-State natives who survived the tornados wrath, Tom Nobis and John Alves. Their messages tell a chilling story of the moments during and after the storm.
"It was a nice Sunday afternoon. We didn't see it coming," said Nobis.
Within a matter of minutes, a Youtube video shows customers at a local convenience store taking cover in the eye of a massive tornado.
John Alves and his pregnant wife Rebecca had just come home from a graduation. With one look outside, they immediately took shelter in a corner of their basement. Minutes later, it hit.
"It really sounded like a jet was just flying over the top of our house," said Alves. "Windows shattered, you couldn't see anything. Dirt and debris were flying in."
Once the storm passed, survivors were met with the aftermath.
"The majority of the house is gone. We've got bits and pieces of housing material that's not ours in our house," said Alves.
"You're hearing things that shouldn't be heard all in the same area. Fire trucks, ambulances, people screaming," said Nobis.
"You see this stuff on TV and in the movies, and it's just completely different being in the middle of it," said Alves.
"Most people are just in shock, just wondering around making sure everyone's okay," said Nobis. "All the streets signs are down, so you can't tell where you are. Not a tree left in the ground. And what wasn't destroyed yesterday was [Sunday] with the heavy water saturation."
"The weird thing is, you walk down a street and go, 'where do you start? It was like a vacuum just sucked up everything," said Nobis.
It's still difficult getting calls out of the Joplin area. For families trying to keep in contact with victims, we've found a text message will go through more often than a phone call.
-----------------------------------------------------To located loved onesVisit www.safeandwell.orgCall 417.659.5464 How you can help Complete spreadsheet of Joplin Relief Drop Off Locations Volunteers are asked to report to Leggett & Platt (recreation center) at Missouri Southern State UniversityTo give blood in Joplin go to the Community Blood Center of the Ozarks located at the Northpark Mall.To find out how you can help call 1-800-RedCross or visit RedCross.org.Mail monetary donations to:American Red CrossP.O. Box 37243Washington, DC 20013 Shelters Ignite Church Leggett & Platt Center at MSSU Mount Hope Church of Christ in Webb City (call 624-1795)Bus's to Red Cross shelters available at:- Junge Stadium on 13th Street- Forest Park Baptist Church, 7th and Rangeline- Lowe's, 24th and Rangeline- Vintage Stock, 32nd and Main PetsAmber Alert for Pets will issue free lost pet alerts families who have lost a pet in the area affect by the tornado. Go to amberalertforpets.com and fill out a lost pet report. Use the code "MS2011". A cell phone picture will work. Central Pet Care at 224 West Central in Carthage is open to accept animal emergencies and displaced animals. Call 417.358.1300 for more info. Golden Paws Pet Resort is accepting animals that need shelter because their owners have lost their homes. Please call 623-0842.
UPDATED: May 23 at 2:41 p.m.
Immediately after being activated by Gov. Jay Nixon, the Missouri National Guard began tornado relief operations in Joplin.
Approximately 140 Guardsmen are assisting in search and rescue missions in support of local authorities, and are expected to conduct a number of missions in the upcoming days including emergency route clearance, communications support, door-to-door safety visits and security.
As soon as we heard the news of the tornados, the Missouri National Guard began mobilization activities, said Maj. Gen. Stephen L. Danner, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard. Your Missouri National Guard is bringing experienced Citizen-Soldiers and leaders to provide the best support we have to our neighbors in Joplin.
Among those responding are the Soldiers of the 117th Engineer Team, of Monett, and 294th Engineer Company, of Carthage and Anderson. Additionally, a Joint Task Force Communications Kit out of Jefferson City is in route to assist local authorities.
The troops are part of a task force which is organized under the 203rd Engineer Battalion and is using the Carthage Armory as a power projection platform to stage and deploy troops to Joplin. The Missouri National Guard has a total force of more than 11,500 Guard members who are ready to respond.
Spc. Daniel Brown, of the 117th Engineer Team, said his unit was the first to respond and has worked throughout the night.
We got the call while doing our annual training in nearby Anderson and we immediately packed up and went straight to Joplin, said Brown.
Along the way he saw overturned trucks at the intersection of highways 71 and 44 and his unit stopped to check the Flying J gas station for any people.
It was clear and we moved on the Joplin where we spent the night at the Walmart and a local sports store searching the rubble, said Brown. This is something nobody wants to see and thankfully we haven TMt needed to save anyone yet, but we TMve got a lot of good knowledge and training to help. This is our job, and Joplin is our backyard.
The 117th Engineer Team has special equipment and the Soldiers have extensive training and expertise to conduct search and rescue missions. The Soldiers are currently conducting 12-hour shifts in support of local authorities.
Spc. Richard Stotts, of the 294th Engineer Company, was driving with his girlfriend when the storms hit. After taking shelter and making sure his family was safe, Stotts immediately began helping and pulled three people out of the local AT&T building when he got the call that he was mobilized.
For Stotts the transition from citizen helping citizens to Soldier helping citizens was seamless.
This is what I signed up for, to help people, said Stotts.
The 294th Engineer Company worked throughout the night and is currently supporting the 117th and local authorities.
Throughout the area, supporting the citizens is the main mission, said Maj. Michael Brown, executive officer for the 203rd Engineer Battalion.
We are here to support the citizen of Joplin anyway we can, said Brown. Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones in this disaster. The residents here are our fellow citizens, neighbors and friends. We will remain here as long as they need us.
Missouri TMs Soldiers and Airmen will continue working in support of local authorities until released by the governor. Units supporting the tornado response include: Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 35th Engineer Brigade, of Fort Leonard Wood; Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 203rd Engineer Battalion, of Joplin; 3-135th Aviation Battalion, of Lebanon; Company A, 935th Aviation Support Battalion, of Aurora; 294th Engineer Company (Equipment Support), of Anderson and Carthage; 276th Engineer Company (Vertical), of Pierce City; Forward Support Company, 203rd Engineer Battalion, of Joplin; 117th Engineer Team (Asphalt), of Monett; 70th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment of Jefferson City and the Joint Operations Center at Joint Force Headquarters in Jefferson City.
For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please visit www.moguard.com and our social media sites:www.facebook.com/Missouri.National.Guardwww.twitter.com/Missouri_NGwww.youtube.com/MoNationalGuardwww.myspace.com/missouri_ngwww.flickr.com/photos/missouriguardwww.blog.moguard.com
Click here to watch first person video on YouTube of people in Joplin Missouri that gathered for shelter in a Fastrip on East 20th Street during the tornado.
UPDATED: May 23 at 2:30 p.m.
At the request of the State Emergency Management Agency, Monday, the Humane Society of Missouri is sending a fifteen-member Disaster Response Team to Joplin, Mo. to rescue and shelter pets affected by last night TMs devastating tornado. The team consists of professionals trained in emergency animal rescue and shelter operations and includes a veterinarian to care for sick and injured animals.
-- The HSMO Field Assessment Team will canvass the area searching for and rescuing injured and displaced pets.
-- In conjunction with Joplin Animal Control, the HSMO Sheltering Team will assist in the operation of an animal shelter on the campus of Missouri Southern State University (MSSU). Persons being housed at the shelter at MSSU will be able to place their pets at this animal shelter.
-- The HSMO Sheltering Team also will set up and operate a separate emergency shelter with the capacity to care for several hundred pets of persons who are not being sheltered at MSSU.
Persons displaced by the tornado who need shelter for their pets should contact the Jasper County Emergency Management Agency at their emergency location in the Recreation Center on the campus of Missouri Southern State University.
At this time, monetary donations are encouraged. Persons wishing to make donations to assist animal rescue efforts can do so at www.hsmo.org.
The Humane Society of Missouri has been named by the State Emergency Management Agency as the lead animal welfare agency in response to disasters and other emergencies in Missouri.
In April and May, the HSMO Disaster Response Team spent two weeks in the flooded areas of Southeast Missouri rescuing and sheltering more than 200 animals.
Severe storms rolled across the country Sunday night.And one of the hardest hit areas was Joplin Missouri.
Early reports indicate that at least one tornado touched down in Joplin, leaving a path of destruction throughout the city. Power lines and phone lines are down in the city making communications very difficult, As you can see countless buildings and homes throughout the area have been destroyed. Ambulances lined the street near a Walmart, as emergency rescue officials from four states responded to rescue hundreds of residents trapped inside the building. One of the hardest hit buildings in St. John's hospital.One resident living nearly 45-miles away from the hospital says his yard is now full of debris from the hospital including medical supplies and x-rays. Officials say the hospital is severely damaged. Chunks of the building were taken out by the storm, and windows were blown out. At last report...Eastbound and westbound I-44 is closed near Joplin due to overturned tractor trailers. Missouri governor Jay Nixon has also declared a state of emergency for the city.The National Guard has also been called in to help.More than 20 people are reported dead but some officials say they expect that number to reach close to 100.President Obama issued a statement expressing his condolences to the victims families.He also directed FEMA to help with recovery efforts.
Here's a link to the Joplin Globe newspaper: www.joplinglobe.com
My thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims and their families and to everyone in Joplin who was impacted by yesterday TMs tornado. We TMve seen too many tragic storms already this year and the scenes of devastation are all too familiar to Iowans who experienced the most powerful tornado in the United States in 2008. To those that have lost their loved ones, please know that our hearts are with you at this time.-- Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01)