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2011-05-22 Joplin, MO tornado thread

Since nobody's mentioned this yet I figured I would:

Analysis of 106 of the 154 fatalities, done by reporters at the Joplin Globe, shows that 54 percent died in their homes; 32 percent died in non-residential buildings (stores, churches, restaurants, etc.); and 14 percent died outdoors or in vehicles.


If these numbers hold up under more detailed analysis, what does it indicate about the response of the public to the warnings? How does it compare to fatality locations in other killer tornadoes? (A commenter at the Globe site says that most killer tornadoes have a much HIGHER percentage of victims being killed in their homes).
Elaine, this tornado struck during the late afternoon partly in a residential and partly in a commercial region. It makes sense that it would have a higher % of casualties outside homes, based on timing and location.


Death toll is at 159.

Joplin tornado large enough that it had eye

"The tornado had wind speeds of approximately 200-plus mph. The wind speeds were calculated by Partha Sarkar, professor of wind engineering at Iowa State University in Ames, who observed that man-hole covers were lifted from the ground and that concrete parking stops had been moved by the tornado near St. John’s Regional Medical Center.

Using their weight and other atmospheric factors, he calculated what it would take to move them.

“For the manhole covers, it barely exceeds 200 mph. It’s at least that much. With the parking stops, they are in the 205 mph range,’’ he said."

Austin Earl

I was chasing the Joplin storm and got a flat tire... Missed the storm by about 9 minutes and came up on the aftermath. When I was chasing it in Kansas, there were funnels to my north and a wall cloud to my south. I was curious to see if anyone had a link to a radar loop of the storm to see if the two cells merged.


Excellent story on the horror that took place at St. John's Hospital.


"It reminded Hernandez of a zombie movie. Two wet, terrified teens who'd been celebrating high school graduation arrived in fancy dresses. One had wood and glass wedged in her head and back. Another young woman's scalp had been peeled back."

"Dr. Kevin Kitka treated a man gasping for air. He pulled a large piece of glass from his back and diagnosed a collapsed lung. Knowing the injury was life-threatening and time was short, the doctor inserted a tube into the man's chest -- but had no anesthetic to dull the pain. The patient never complained.

Outside, a man had been impaled by a street sign. Another was crushed under his mangled SUV."

"He later found an elderly man, an 18-inch rod sticking into his chest and coming out his left side.

"He said, 'Son, just leave me to die.' I said, 'No, you're going.'"

In 90 minutes, the hospital evacuated 183 patients."

N Parker

Excellent story on the horror that took place at St. John's Hospital.

Wow. Just wow. Really good insight to what was going on in those few horrible moments when it hit and trying to find order in all the chaos


Try contacting the NWS in Springfield, MO. They have more information on this event and I believe they have radar of the storm too. There were two different cells that day and the ones to the north were being undercut by an outflow boundry and didn't really form but the one to the south that was near Commerce, OK wasn't. There is speculation that the two systems merged just ahead of the outflow boundry. I know there has been some discussion on this in the scientific community so someone else may know more. I hope you find what you are looking for!
From what I have seen looking over this case, the OFB had a direct influence on the storm and was the catalyst for developing the violent tornado. The Joplin storm first developed near Miami, OK and lifted to the northeast. The original convection which had fired in southeast Kansas and western Missouri (north of Joplin) had become outlfow dominant and a well-defined gust front pushed south from these storms. The "Miami" cell quickly developed a mesocyclone as it continued moving northeast. The gust front outflow boundary began to lose momentum as it pushed into the Joplin area from the north. As the Miami cell began to interact with the OFB just west of Joplin it quickly latched onto the boundary and deviated to the right. This more easterly movement caused the storm to head straight into joplin. As the storm (already having a persistent mesocyclone) interacted with the OFB it quickly became tornadic. What amazes me about this case is how quickly the tornado intensified when it developed.
Good day all,

The Joplin tornado day was a pretty savage day, not what I "signed up" for to be a storm chaser. God bless everyone affected.


Above is a diagram for May 22, 2011. The left and middle images show the tornado watch box and mesoscale discussion products issued by the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) for that afternoon. The target areas selected were pretty much from SE Kansas, not far from Parsons, and eastward into extreme southwestern Missouri. This was towards the western portion of the SPC outlook products, and within a 10% tornado probability area that was displaced from a higher 15% hatched tornado probability area farther to the northeast into Illinois.

For my chase, the refined target anticipated right-moving, and more discrete supercell storms. In the visible satellite image to the right, supercell storms have developed ahead of the dryline / intersection with a weak Pacific (cool front) boundary and impressive moisture axis. Note the HCR's (horizontal convective rolls) from the center and to lower right side of the right image! A gravity wave is also present in the free warm sector. The biggest storm cell in the right image is the Joplin, MO supercell which caused devastation to a large portion of the city, killing more than 160 people, and leaving a mile-wide path of complete destruction.

This was an EF-5 tornado, and damage was over 2 BILLION dollars. The Joplin Storm was a right-turning storm (moving E instead of NE) and well within the moisture axis of the free warm sector, with CAPE of over 3500 J/Kg and a helicity exceeding 300 m^2/s^2. The developing supercells in NE Oklahoma also produced tornadoes.


The Joplin storm was a very unique HP (high-precipitation) supercell from a scientific standpoint. Even more impressive, the tornado-genesis phase of the storm took a mere 4 minutes, with rapid intensification to EF-4 (or even EF-5) strength in an additional 5-6 minutes time ... So rapid that the 6-minute WSR-88D scan time (from Springfield) may have MISSED the rapid formation stages of the tornado (one scan shows a supercell and the next one looks like the image above)!

Joey Ketcham

Don't know if anyone had mentioned this, but in about two weeks Extreme Makeover: Home Edition will be in Joplin for what they said is the biggest build in the show's history; 7 houses in 7 days. I think that's pretty cool of them to do.

Taylor Campbell

I agree, and after watching the episode you could certainly give thanks to them in their job well done for those families!
Don't know if anyone had mentioned this, but in about two weeks Extreme Makeover: Home Edition will be in Joplin for what they said is the biggest build in the show's history; 7 houses in 7 days. I think that's pretty cool of them to do.

Yes, I can confirm this as well Joey. It was actually a large student based group from Drury College out of Springfield that did all the reconstruction to the park located in Joplin. Will be a very good and emotional episode for those interested in watching it. Along with the Drury group, as Joey mentioned there was also reconstruction of 7 houses in the Joplin area as well. The community has really stepped up and done remarkable things in helping the community. Joplin was awarded as a national tree city 3 years ago, and the area that was destroyed by the tornado removed 97 % of the trees in the path of that deadly tornado. They are in the process of replanting many of the trees, such as dogwoods and other trees. It will take many years to recover all the trees that were lost, but it is a wonderful thing that so many people locally and out of the area have invested their time and finances to help those people in the recovery process.
I hadn't seen this one yet (until someone stuck it on my Facebook wall):

Watch video >

Claims to be from Joplin; couldn't verify by watching the signs on the interstate, but the topology looks about right.
The signs are readable at the 1080 HD resolution - that's at the Highway 71 interchange (the Neosho exit). Doesn't look like that video had been discovered before today, though it was posted on May 26.