Death Toll Of Missouri Tornado Rises To 117, The Deadliest In Recorded History
The death toll from a twister that ripped through Joplin, Missouri has risen to 117, making it the single deadliest in the U.S. since the National Weather Service began tracking that figure in 1961.
Rescue efforts continued in Joplin, and by late Monday night, crews were able to find 17 people alive.
"We're going to cover every foot of this town," Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said. "We are ... optimistic that there are still lives to be saved. But (first responders) have seen a tremendous amount of pain already."
However, the danger in the region is not yet over as weather forecasters warn that more storms could be on the way Tuesday. The Kansas City Star reported:
Forecasters said Monday that people in Kansas, Oklahoma, northern Texas and western Missouri should monitor the weather closely.
“This is a very serious situation that’s brewing and it is possible, if not likely, that we’ll be moving to our highest alert status sometime during the next 12 to 24 hours as we gather more information,” said Russell Schneider, director of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.
Cities affected, he said, include Joplin, Wichita, Kansas City, Topeka, Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
Damage to the area has been severe. More than 14,000 people remained without power, numerous phone lines and cell phone towers were down and Missouri American Water Co. customers are being asked to conserve water.
CNN reported: "The Sunday-evening 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 EF-4 with winds between 190 and 198 mph, National Weather Service director Jack Hayes said."
The hospital in Joplin had to be completely evacuated after officials deemed it unsafe due to storm damage. ABC News reported: "The winds were so powerful that items from the hospital, like medications and medical records, were found in neighboring counties.
The Joplin school district also cancelled classes for the remainder of the school year because of the tornado. Three schools--an elementary school, a high school and a technology center--were destroyed by the twister, while others were damaged.
President Barack Obama, who is currently on a state trip to Europe, called Gov. Nixon to offer support and to assure him that FEMA would remain in close contact with local responders.
“At my direction, FEMA is working with the affected areas’ state and local officials to support response and recovery efforts, and the federal government stands ready to help our fellow Americans as needed,” a White House statement said.