2011-05-22 Joplin, MO tornado thread

Jun 21, 2004
1,528
32
11
Kearney, NE
bigstormpicture.com
yeah this is the hospital where my friend's fiance works. she was there as the tornado hit. reports of fatalities of patients as well as a major gas leak in the area.

my prayers are with all of those involved. i am getting a care package together to send with blankets and hygene products and stuffed animals (for the kiddos) i am sending it to a friend who has people that lost everything. i may try to get off work to get out and help. i know my company has jobsites in Joplin i may get on the ERT team to head out if aclled up.
This photo is one of the most bizarre tornado damage shots I've ever seen. It looks like something out of a zombie apocalypse movie.
 

Jason Foster

By about 2 minute mark all hell breaks loose, at least for the audio--very limited visualhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQnvxJZucds&feature=channel_video_title
very disturbing hearing people afraid that they are about to die. Then again, some comic bits as people discuss positioning of who is laying where. Also, a lot of reassuring people there helping the younger kids.
This is a little creepy for me...reminds me a bit of the tornado experience I had in 1990 and being stuck in Hurricane Charley during the most intense winds. It's not fun. It should give people the reality check as to the seriousness and emotional part of this (and many similar) events. EVERYONE should listen to the clip! EVERYONE.
 

Drew.Gardonia

since there has been no video of this tornado.. is it safe to assume that none of the big time chases got video of this one?

Usually one would have sold it to a news agency by now. Knowing that area really well I doubt a chaser could have hung with it.
jeff piotrowski got video of it from sart to finish. his truck was totalled
but he then went and started helping with rescue efforts and pulling people out of the rubble.
 
May 2, 2010
191
27
11
Springfield, IL
I know that one of the Alabama tornadoes killed 75 people and has been rated as the deadliest single tornado since 1955 (Udall, KS). Now, not even a month later, the Joplin tornado smashes both records and is now the deadliest single tornado since Worcester MA in 1953.

I wonder how the fact that this tornado hit on a Sunday afternoon/evening, when most people were NOT at work or in school (as opposed to the Tuscaloosa/BHM tornado which hit at rush hour on a weekday), affected the death toll.

Did fewer people die than might have otherwise because they were home and not out on the roads, in office buildings, etc.? Or did MORE people die because they were in homes without proper shelter, they were preoccupied with recreational activities (shopping, cookouts, etc) or special events (Joplin HS was having graduation that day, though thankfully, NOT at the high school itself which was destroyed) and weren't paying as close attention to the weather forecast or conditions?

Or was the tornado just so huge and powerful that the timing didn't really matter?
 
May 18, 2004
285
80
11
48
Centennial, CO
stormdoctor.com
Brief report....forecast area verified and vilified.

Much longer (but bear wtih me here): Choosing which storm was which in outflow early on made identification of storm structures very difficult. Shelf cloud after shelf cloud put out accesory cloud structures that looked like wall clouds, but when under them, the winds were cold out of the north and were clearly not updrafts. I'm sure some of them augmented updraft bases, but structure identification was truly impossible.

Radar provided the guidance, but that meant heading east on I-44 with risk of some RFD punching. We interfaced w/ Cloud 9, and George K helped with navigation. We were there right after the tornado hit. By right after, I mean <5 minutes. Initial hopes that the tornado had only grazed Joplin (with a sign blown down here, and a semi on its side there) were abandoned when we came across semis clearly thrown from the road by tornadic-level winds. Semis, in this case, worked out to about 15 that I saw scattered over the highway.

Uniformly it was clear from the devestation that that our chase was over. Cloud 9 went into a first responder mode with Mike Ratliff taking at least one of the truckers to a staging area. Myself and chase partner Robert Balogh (also a physician) approached a police officer to ask where incident command was. He informed us that St. Johns, a large hospital and one of only two in the area had been destroyed. We reported to the Freeman Hospital ER, and began what was a marathon of patient care. Each of cared for at least 40-50 patients with at least 7 fatalities total from both groups. Upward scaling the injury count, there were easily 1,000 injured (most minor, of course) coupled with the need to also take in one large hospital's worth of patients and one nursing home's patients (both were destroyed). I'm way too tired to type this out right now, but need to debrief a little. In short, the hospital was a blood bath in a way I'd never even considered possible. As was anticipated by their ER, a mass casualty incident would involve combined efforts of the two hospitals in Joplin plus outlying hospitals. No scenario considered one whole hospital destroyed.

The staff I worked with down to every single one were impeccable, appreciative, effective, and efficient. On that level, it was ballet. On the other, seeing children die, gruesome injuries beyond what I'll discuss here, and seeing the reality of this phase of post-storm devestation left me crying at one point. We worked until we started making mistakes, and then spent an hour discussing the day together because there was no sleep in us.

It's difficult to tell you the hard duality of the tornado. It was wished for in almost all aspects. I really picked my target carefully. I felt elated at seeing the TCu become Cbs, and all of this early in the day. Then there was the reality of what was wished for manifesting itself in reality. The hospital work really felt inifinite and I could tell I couldn't work indefinitely. I had to leave, but felt the pain that this disaster will not be leaving anytime soon for those in Joplin (even while we left major trauma continued to arrive) left me feeling the tornado so intensely sad.

Hospital workers there didn't even know the fate of their own families: cell service was down for many hours, and due to the hospital's need to run on generator power, most of the electrical outlets didn't work and the telephone network was down. And yet, there was no end to the enormous dedication to patients. People who may have lost everything kept tending to their neighbors. Perhaps that was the most heart wrenching thing: people recognizing friends who were injured or worse. But they kept working. I felt humbled by their work. I knew my role would have to end though. I checked out my patients to one of the MDs and just like that I'm suddenly sitting in a clean hotel room in N/C OK. Lights are on, wireless network is great. Joplin is literally 100 miles away.

While driving here, Robert was shocked to hear that I was going to chase on 5/23 and 5/24. After what we'd seen, how could the reasonable person chase? I had to think about that, and then realized why. I didn't cause the storm by wishing for it, and had it not been there, Robert and I wouldn't have been there either to help. Karma. I'll chase again (if I sleep). But I'll never ever forget what happened today in a way I've never appreciated so deeply.

Anyway, forgive the rant...before today, I'd only seen a couple (at most) injuries from storms. Today was apocolyptic....

Last: Cloud 9 was amazing in STOPPING a chase tour to render aid. That was so deeply touching. I just don't have enough words about my gratitude for seeing people do what they could.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Timothy Schaffer
Mar 10, 2010
116
0
0
Parsons, Kansas
I know that one of the Alabama tornadoes killed 75 people and has been rated as the deadliest single tornado since 1955 (Udall, KS). Now, not even a month later, the Joplin tornado smashes both records and is now the deadliest single tornado since Worcester MA in 1953.

I wonder how the fact that this tornado hit on a Sunday afternoon/evening, when most people were NOT at work or in school (as opposed to the Tuscaloosa/BHM tornado which hit at rush hour on a weekday), affected the death toll.

Did fewer people die than might have otherwise because they were home and not out on the roads, in office buildings, etc.? Or did MORE people die because they were in homes without proper shelter, they were preoccupied with recreational activities (shopping, cookouts, etc) or special events (Joplin HS was having graduation that day, though thankfully, NOT at the high school itself which was destroyed) and weren't paying as close attention to the weather forecast or conditions?

Or was the tornado just so huge and powerful that the timing didn't really matter?
Well Joplin is kind of the local place to go on Sundays... sort of a destination for a day out so to speak. I am guessing there were several thousand out of towners there on a sunday after noon.
 

jeremy wilson

Just saw some aerial footage, this thing was huge! The damage looked very similar to May 3rd in Moore except it looked worse to me. The images I just saw looked like possible 1/2 mile wide EF4 damage.
 
Sep 28, 2005
34
0
0
I know that one of the Alabama tornadoes killed 75 people and has been rated as the deadliest single tornado since 1955 (Udall, KS). Now, not even a month later, the Joplin tornado smashes both records and is now the deadliest single tornado since Worcester MA in 1953.

I wonder how the fact that this tornado hit on a Sunday afternoon/evening, when most people were NOT at work or in school (as opposed to the Tuscaloosa/BHM tornado which hit at rush hour on a weekday), affected the death toll.

Did fewer people die than might have otherwise because they were home and not out on the roads, in office buildings, etc.? Or did MORE people die because they were in homes without proper shelter, they were preoccupied with recreational activities (shopping, cookouts, etc) or special events (Joplin HS was having graduation that day, though thankfully, NOT at the high school itself which was destroyed) and weren't paying as close attention to the weather forecast or conditions?

Or was the tornado just so huge and powerful that the timing didn't really matter?
Elaine, I grew up in Springfield, MO to the east and have spent much time in Joplin. The area hit was HEAVILY residential, with street-after-street of non-cul-de-sac subdivisions of the kind that were I believe built in the 60s and 70s. The area around St. John's hospital (which was a beautiful facility built literally or almost so on the edge of the Ozark plateau, which was surrounded by hardwood trees and was on the edge of a gully or ravine but quite scenic) had newer and I believe more expensive homes.

The path this storm took couldn't really have been any worse in terms of hitting a highly-populated area with several businesses to boot. I have grave concern that we'll see a higher death toll. Two years ago I went to a basketball game at Joplin (formerly Parkwood) High School which is said to be demolished. It's my understanding that JHS had its graduation ceremony that day at nearby Missouri Southern State University and if so there would likely have been many parties at people's homes. (Puts the party we had for my own son who graduated from high school three counties to the south on Saturday in perspective, but we had relatives from Missouri who came down I-44 and would have been in the path of that thing as it roped out...praise God they're OK.) BTW, I posted here after surviving the Bentonville, AR tornado in March 2006 which hit our house at night but was probably just as big though "only" F-2. I don't want to think what would have happened had that hit during maximum heating around 5-6, but I've NEVER seen the skies look as ugly at our community (Bella Vista, AR) as they did last night.
 
Jun 21, 2004
1,528
32
11
Kearney, NE
bigstormpicture.com
Brief report....forecast area verified and vilified.

Much longer (but bear wtih me here): Choosing which storm was which in outflow early on made identification of storm structures very difficult. Shelf cloud after shelf cloud put out accesory cloud structures that looked like wall clouds, but when under them, the winds were cold out of the north and were clearly not updrafts. I'm sure some of them augmented updraft bases, but structure identification was truly impossible.

Radar provided the guidance, but that meant heading east on I-44 with risk of some RFD punching. We interfaced w/ Cloud 9, and George K helped with navigation. We were there right after the tornado hit. By right after, I mean <5 minutes. Initial hopes that the tornado had only grazed Joplin (with a sign blown down here, and a semi on its side there) were abandoned when we came across semis clearly thrown from the road by tornadic-level winds. Semis, in this case, worked out to about 15 that I saw scattered over the highway.

Uniformly it was clear from the devestation that that our chase was over. Cloud 9 went into a first responder mode with Mike Ratliff taking at least one of the truckers to a staging area. Myself and chase partner Robert Balogh (also a physician) approached a police officer to ask where incident command was. He informed us that St. Johns, a large hospital and one of only two in the area had been destroyed. We reported to the Freeman Hospital ER, and began what was a marathon of patient care. Each of cared for at least 40-50 patients with at least 7 fatalities total from both groups. Upward scaling the injury count, there were easily 1,000 injured (most minor, of course) coupled with the need to also take in one large hospital's worth of patients and one nursing home's patients (both were destroyed). I'm way too tired to type this out right now, but need to debrief a little. In short, the hospital was a blood bath in a way I'd never even considered possible. As was anticipated by their ER, a mass casualty incident would involve combined efforts of the two hospitals in Joplin plus outlying hospitals. No scenario considered one whole hospital destroyed.

The staff I worked with down to every single one were impeccable, appreciative, effective, and efficient. On that level, it was ballet. On the other, seeing children die, gruesome injuries beyond what I'll discuss here, and seeing the reality of this phase of post-storm devestation left me crying at one point. We worked until we started making mistakes, and then spent an hour discussing the day together because there was no sleep in us.

It's difficult to tell you the hard duality of the tornado. It was wished for in almost all aspects. I really picked my target carefully. I felt elated at seeing the TCu become Cbs, and all of this early in the day. Then there was the reality of what was wished for manifesting itself in reality. The hospital work really felt inifinite and I could tell I couldn't work indefinitely. I had to leave, but felt the pain that this disaster will not be leaving anytime soon for those in Joplin (even while we left major trauma continued to arrive) left me feeling the tornado so intensely sad.

Hospital workers there didn't even know the fate of their own families: cell service was down for many hours, and due to the hospital's need to run on generator power, most of the electrical outlets didn't work and the telephone network was down. And yet, there was no end to the enormous dedication to patients. People who may have lost everything kept tending to their neighbors. Perhaps that was the most heart wrenching thing: people recognizing friends who were injured or worse. But they kept working. I felt humbled by their work. I knew my role would have to end though. I checked out my patients to one of the MDs and just like that I'm suddenly sitting in a clean hotel room in N/C OK. Lights are on, wireless network is great. Joplin is literally 100 miles away.

While driving here, Robert was shocked to hear that I was going to chase on 5/23 and 5/24. After what we'd seen, how could the reasonable person chase? I had to think about that, and then realized why. I didn't cause the storm by wishing for it, and had it not been there, Robert and I wouldn't have been there either to help. Karma. I'll chase again (if I sleep). But I'll never ever forget what happened today in a way I've never appreciated so deeply.

Anyway, forgive the rant...before today, I'd only seen a couple (at most) injuries from storms. Today was apocolyptic....

Last: Cloud 9 was amazing in STOPPING a chase tour to render aid. That was so deeply touching. I just don't have enough words about my gratitude for seeing people do what they could.
Jason, I want to personally thank you for what you do. A physician stopping a chase and rendering aid in a town where a hospital is destroyed is nothing short of heroic.
 

Andy Wade

EF0
Feb 9, 2011
29
9
6
Norman
I think we're finally being forced to acknowledge something scary: that some tornadoes will kill anyone who is not in a "safe room" or underground storm shelter. There's not a good way to tell people that yes, you should get in your closet, you should get in your bathtub, but that might not be enough. The lead time in Joplin was unavoidably low--some residents said five minutes--but they did know, and being right in the MO/KS/OK corner, the population was probably a lot more tornado-savvy than Tuscaloosa or Birmingham. Sadly, many of the people killed probably sought some type of shelter that they perceived to be adequate.

I don't know how we should deal with this, but we might start with drawing a distinction in forecasts between marginal tornado days and the SPC's hatched area days. Would we miss a few violent storms and occasionally screw up in the other direction? Yes, but Joplin was right in the SPC's significant tornado area. The possibility of an exceptionally lethal tornado needs to be publicly known, and meteorologists might plant the idea in residents' minds that if a warning is issued, they should consider fleeing to an underground shelter or the interior of a large building instead of going to a closet like they usually would. However, the problem that comes to mind with Joplin is that if people had done that with five minutes of lead time, they would have been caught outside and certainly killed. I think this was the tragically perfect storm; it intensified too quickly and too close to the town to allow careful choice of shelter, but was too strong to survive in a typical closet or interior room. My prayers are with Joplin and the other towns impacted.
 

Jesse Risley

Staff member
Apr 12, 2006
2,123
486
11
39
Macomb, IL
www.tornadoguys.com
I don't know how we should deal with this, but we might start with drawing a distinction in forecasts between marginal tornado days and the SPC's hatched area days. Would we miss a few violent storms and occasionally screw up in the other direction? Yes, but Joplin was right in the SPC's significant tornado area. The possibility of an exceptionally lethal tornado needs to be publicly known, and meteorologists might plant the idea in residents' minds that if a warning is issued, they should consider fleeing to an underground shelter or the interior of a large building instead of going to a closet like they usually would. However, the problem that comes to mind with Joplin is that if people had done that with five minutes of lead time, they would have been caught outside and certainly killed. I think this was the tragically perfect storm; it intensified too quickly and too close to the town to allow careful choice of shelter, but was too strong to survive in a typical closet or interior room. My prayers are with Joplin and the other towns impacted.
We're dealing with more of a social science issue here, and even given improvements in warnings strategies, I think there is only so much we can do if strong to violent tornadoes impact more heavily populated areas. You are going to have more casualties than not, regardless of lead time, outlook emphasis, etc. Human behavior leads me to believe that most people still won't do what we weather aficionados think they should be doing when the risk is present - monitor, plan and prepare for the worst case scenario well before it happens.

I've come to the realization that most people don't take most threats seriously until they have been confronted with the threat personally, whether it is severe weather or something else. Unless you can convince people on more substantial risk days to spend their entire day monitoring conditions for warning updates and staying within safe distance of an unarguably substantial shelter, preferably with a reinforced lower level area safe to harbor persons during a strong to violent tornado, then there is little than can be done to prevent some casualties when these things do occur.

On top of that, there can be a myriad of structural issues that come to light when buildings don't hold up like people think they should if the building takes a direct hit, basement walls collapsing, etc. The majority of the populace is not going to be able to discern how strong an approaching tornado is, which poses an issue as to how, when and where people should seek shelter for non-traditional, violent tornado events. I think there is only so far we can go with improved warning times and encouraging people to see shelter. When urban areas take direct hits by high end TORS, more structures are impacted and more humans are in the path of said tornadoes. I'm not arguing that improved dialogue can't help to lessen the number of casualties, but it's probably unrealistic to think that reworded outlooks or personal assessments of choice tornado shelters will dramatically lessen what happens when urban areas do take direct hits. If nothing else, hopefully future building codes and construction projects in tornado prone areas will take some of the recent tragedies into account when considering safe areas for people to be within those structures if the 'unthinkable' ever strikes again.