2011-05-22 Joplin, MO tornado thread

Alan Smithton

What's crazy is that they decided to head east on I-44 and that monster tornado actually ended up taking a turn and went right over I-44. They got very lucky.
Yeah, that is one absurdly lucky group of chasers. Without a timestamp it's not clear exactly when this video was shot, but they're clearly heading south on Range Line a maximum of a couple minutes before the tornado struck that area. They're passing through 20th and Range Line as the video begins, and if the camera was pointing east instead of west we'd be able to see the Home Depot that was about to be destroyed.

Then, as you say, they appear to get on I-44 eastbound and just miss crossing the tornado's path again, since it crossed the interstate (albeit at reduced intensity) about 3 miles east of Range Line and caused damage to some truck stops at an exit there.

I was also struck by the fact that even though there's a 3/4 mile wide EF-5 tornado probably less than a mile to their west, and the camera is pointed in the right direction, there's really nothing that "looks" like a tornado until about 1:20 where you can see the contrast difference between the edge of the funnel and the clouds/rain behind it. It's not till that point that the passengers in the van really seem to spot the tornado either. I wonder if more than a few people simply did not realize what was coming.
 

Jeff Duda

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I was also struck by the fact that even though there's a 3/4 mile wide EF-5 tornado probably less than a mile to their west, and the camera is pointed in the right direction, there's really nothing that "looks" like a tornado until about 1:20 where you can see the contrast difference between the edge of the funnel and the clouds/rain behind it. It's not till that point that the passengers in the van really seem to spot the tornado either. I wonder if more than a few people simply did not realize what was coming.
That was the tornado? I thought that was the sheath of rain masking it. I don't think you could've actually seen the tornado itself - maybe just the insanely wrapping rain bands? I don't know. I wasn't there, so I could be wrong.
 
Jan 28, 2009
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I wonder how many people were killed in their automobiles. In that video you see many people out and about in their cars seemingly unaware of the imminent danger.
 

Alan Smithton

That was the tornado? I thought that was the sheath of rain masking it. I don't think you could've actually seen the tornado itself - maybe just the insanely wrapping rain bands? I don't know. I wasn't there, so I could be wrong.
I assumed the rain-wrapping was the precipitation they drove through as they were getting on the interstate, but you could definitely be correct...I wasn't there either. I guess either way there was a massive but mostly not-visible tornado just up the road.
 
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Mar 14, 2010
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Siloam Springs, Arkansas
I got around 3/4 mile from it on the South side and i couldn't make anything out. The power was going out as i was headed East on I-44 and i was judging by the inflow that i wasn't going to get ahead of it in time to drop South on I-540 and was assuming it would cross near there (It did). I let it get ahead of me just enough where the inflow was to my Northwest and i got off at Rangeline. I had 3 or 4 white vans pass me on I-44 that looked like a tour group about 5 miles or so West of Rangeline. I guess i won't neccessarily say they were being stupid because i wasn't far behind them, but me and my partner was amazed that they was trying to get that close and driving like they was being a tour company and trying to get to it. Maybe they thought they were about to get hit, i don't know. I was pushing the envelope a little bit because i desperately wanted to see it, but i've came to the conclusion i probably wouldn't have been alive if i had seen it (from the South side anyways), or at least my car would have taken some damage. This is almost a double post here but I would think it would have been very confusing to the average person as to what was going on or maybe as what was the best action to take even if they did have a few seconds-sirens or not.
 
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May 2, 2010
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Springfield, IL
Before this thread closes I wanted to add this.

How many chasers, storm researchers, meteorologists, and others do you know in the weather/climate field who were inspired to do what they do because they had close encounters with tornadoes -- in some cases, violent, destructive and deadly tornadoes -- as children or teenagers?

Perhaps some young survivors of Joplin, Tuscaloosa, etc. will become the forecasters and researchers of tomorrow; and perhaps one or more of them will be responsible for a breakthrough in forecasting, engineering, or another field that will insure future generations don't have to endure what they did.

If this forum or something like it is still around in 10 or 20 years (!) it will be interesting to see how many participants point to the Dixie Outbreak or Joplin or even the tornadoes that raked Massachusetts just today as the reason they got interested in weather or chasing.
 

Joey Ketcham

Before this thread closes I wanted to add this.

How many chasers, storm researchers, meteorologists, and others do you know in the weather/climate field who were inspired to do what they do because they had close encounters with tornadoes -- in some cases, violent, destructive and deadly tornadoes -- as children or teenagers?
I was personally inspired by close encounter with a tornado when I was a kid. In November of 1988, the town in which I still live in was hit by a tornado which caused some minor structural damage. It's the earliest tornado related event I remember, and I still remember that day even though I was just a young boy. And I remember afterwards my parents taking us out and seeing the damage. At that moment I started questioning what caused the damage, what a tornado was, how could swirling clouds reach down from the sky and do that. And the rest was history. I also know, in a sense, what it is like to lose everything (except the house itself). Growing up, out house was flooded twice and both times lost everything we had. The house itself was fixable, so I can't relate to losing a house completely, but I can relate to that sense of losing everything you had and having to start from scratch.
 
Dec 1, 2010
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If this forum or something like it is still around in 10 or 20 years (!) it will be interesting to see how many participants point to the Dixie Outbreak or Joplin or even the tornadoes that raked Massachusetts just today as the reason they got interested in weather or chasing.
I'd be curious to know how many current members were influenced by a close encounter when they were younger. Have we done a poll like that already?
 
Sep 28, 2005
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Speaking of urban legends (or not) connected with this killer storm, two things published in the Joplin Globe in the past week:

1. A very detailed article in that paper chronicling damage at various points in the storm said that St. John's Hospital (ostensibly the main building) was moved 4 inches off its foundation. If so, I doubt the entire structure was picked up Wizard-of-Oz-style, but possibly violently shaken to make that so?

2. (This was a secondary article under a main storm story) It was also reported in the Globe that two neighbors across the street from one another near the west end of the damage (also not far from St. John's) saw basketball-sized globes of fire rolling down the street. The paper quoted an NWS meteorologist (!) as saying those could very well have been ball lightning, because a storm that powerful could do some unusual things. I'm just wondering whether those could have been flaming pieces from something like a blown transformer.
 

Joey Ketcham

1. A very detailed article in that paper chronicling damage at various points in the storm said that St. John's Hospital (ostensibly the main building) was moved 4 inches off its foundation. If so, I doubt the entire structure was picked up Wizard-of-Oz-style, but possibly violently shaken to make that so?
I can confirm this as being 100% true. My best friend's cousin is an architect who, last week, went to Joplin and inspected St. John's building to determine if the building is repairable and could continue to to be used, upon inspection he determined that the building shifted 4" and determined that the building is too unstable to be used and that it will need to be demolished. This has since been reported in the local news media here in the Joplin area. Since then, it's likely that St. Johns will rebuild on the north end of Joplin.

I know that last week Tim Marshall was in Joplin conducting a survey, I'm sure St. Johns was probably one of the places his surveyed... hopefully he notices this thread, see's this, and can elaborate on what he saw.

And as for #2, I've heard nothing about that so I have no idea if that is true or not.
 
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sfender

The death count is now 138, as a few people who were hospitalized with injuries have since died. There are still quite a few people in area hospitals with very serious injuries, and the death toll could go a little higher still.
 

Jordan Hartley

No surprise - the 2000 count was incorrect.

"All missing are accounted for in Joplin, MO, after May 22 tornado; 124 confirmed dead - News-Leader http://bit.ly/iBIQcH "
Music to my ears! BTW, if you are able plan a small summer vacation with the family if you can afford it and donate a weekend of your time. Help volunteer down there. Were planning several trips next month. Figured it would be a great experience for my 2 older children. Teach them a little about hard work and the struggles we face in life. Plus, southwest Missouri is full of things to do. You got Springfield, Branson, and Table Rock Lake all within about an hour and a halfs drive.
 
Sep 28, 2005
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I can confirm this as being 100% true. My best friend's cousin is an architect who, last week, went to Joplin and inspected St. John's building to determine if the building is repairable and could continue to to be used, upon inspection he determined that the building shifted 4" and determined that the building is too unstable to be used and that it will need to be demolished. This has since been reported in the local news media here in the Joplin area. Since then, it's likely that St. Johns will rebuild on the north end of Joplin.

I know that last week Tim Marshall was in Joplin conducting a survey, I'm sure St. Johns was probably one of the places his surveyed... hopefully he notices this thread, see's this, and can elaborate on what he saw.

And as for #2, I've heard nothing about that so I have no idea if that is true or not.
Thank you, Joey. Regarding the "ball lightning" I was mistaken about the story source. Rather than the Joplin Globe it was the Springfield MO News-Leader newspaper, repeated here on the site of TV station KSDK:

Here is the story about the balls of fire going down the street and through people's backyards, and the meteorologist's quote about the phenomenon. (At the bottom half of the story.)
 

Alan Smithton

Here's an interesting article:

Joplin Globe
I was just about to post that same link myself. Two things jumped out at me from the article:

1. That the NWS estimates that nearly 7,000 homes were destroyed. Even if they meant 7,000 structures, that is still a staggering number in a city of about 50,000 people.

2. That the forward speed of the tornado was estimated to be less than 10mph for most of its life.
 
Apr 16, 2010
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I was just about to post that same link myself. Two things jumped out at me from the article:

1. That the NWS estimates that nearly 7,000 homes were destroyed. Even if they meant 7,000 structures, that is still a staggering number in a city of about 50,000 people.

2. That the forward speed of the tornado was estimated to be less than 10mph for most of its life.
It seems a bit faster than that here:
Watch video >

Maybe during the widening phase it slowed down some.
 

E. Clark

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Mar 18, 2010
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It reminded me of being in a hurricane- sped up 100x - wall, eye, wall.

During Hurricane Opal I remember looking out front while the eye was overhead and our neighbors were out trying to clean up their property. Newbie to hurricanes, they thought it was all over.
 
Apr 17, 2006
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Owasso Oklahoma
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I thought that I would just paste this from Police One


June 03, 2011
Mo. officer struck by lightning in Joplin dies

Jeff Taylor is the first officer in the history of Riverside Police Department to die in the line of duty

By PoliceOne Staff
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Officer Jefferson “Jeff” Taylor of the Riverside (Mo.) Police Department, who was struck by lightning while aiding in relief efforts in the wake of the Joplin tornado, passed away at in Springfield (Mo.) today. Family members were at his side at St. John’s Hospital — where he had undergone successful skin graft surgery and was being treated for other complications related to injuries he suffered in that incident on Monday, May 23 — when he died. Taylor is the first officer in the history of Riverside Police Department to die in the line of duty.
Taylor was part of Riverside’s 12-member contingent of police officers, firefighters, and public works staff members who responded to the Joplin tornado disaster. On the evening after the tornado, as a new line of storms moved through the Joplin area, Taylor had just returned to a command post when lightning struck the ground near where he was working.
Related Article:
Helping police officers struck by the Joplin tornado


In a written statement, Greg Mills, Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety for the City of Riverside, said: “Jeff Taylor volunteered to assist with the Joplin disaster recovery. He was a highly dedicated officer and a devoted public servant, and we will always remember his sacrifice.”
Taylor — who is the first emergency responder to die as a result of the May 22 Joplin tornado — joined the Riverside Police Department in 2005 and was named Officer of the Year in 2008.
While departing this world he was still able to save three more people today. His liver and kidneys are being donated to those waiting and three more lives will be spared due to Jeffs generosity.
 
Dec 30, 2008
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It seems a bit faster than that here:
Watch video >

Maybe during the widening phase it slowed down some.
This is one issue I can't seem to get resolved. The authorities have been saying it traversed the 6 miles of Joplin in 5 minutes(70mph??). The NWS makes a statement saying it traveled 10mph. And this video seems to show something in between. Perhaps this has been previously addressed in this thread and I apologize if it has. I haven't had much time the past two weeks to get online.