CNN Meteorologist Sarah Dillingham
Just one year ago today, the residents of Joplin, MO saw unimaginable devastation as an EF5 tornado ripped through their town on a Sunday afternoon. The tornado, which packed winds of over 200 mph, reached up to 1 mile in width as it moved through the densely populated areas of Joplin. The town of 50,000 reported over 1,000 injuries and lost 158 people that day, making it the single deadliest tornado in U.S. history since modern record-keeping began in 1950. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this was also the first tornado to have over 100 fatalities since the Flint, MI tornado that occurred on June 8, 1953. In total, the tornado carved a path of 22.1 miles, with the worst part of it being through Joplin, before finally dissipating southeast of the city.
The Joplin tornado was one of 75 that occurred from the Great Plains to the Ohio Valley that day, and there were 843 total reports of severe weather, with 359 wind reports and 409 hail reports. This was also just one day of a multiple-day event that caused severe weather, including tornadoes, across the Plains and again for Joplin. As severe storms rolled through the same area the day after the Joplin tornado, May 23, an police officer aiding in the clean-up was struck by lightning and died as a result of his injuries, making him the first lightning-related fatality of 2011.
Joplin is continuing to rebuild today, but a great deal remains undone. If you remember, this tornado moved through the town just as local high school students and their families were leaving their graduation ceremony at a nearby University. Several people accidentally drove into the storm as the tornado was obscured by rain, or rain-wrapped, and tragically lost their lives. It is certain that this tornado will continue to leave an impact for many years to come, but the city of Joplin will continue to do everything they can to piece their lives back together.
Click here to see how students are still coping today.