Friday, June 24, 2011

The Joplin MO tornado by Angie Avey

The Joplin, MO tornado’s effect on the environment & its inhabitants
Angela Avey
PHS 100A
Dr. David Terrell
Warner Pacific College
June 23, 2011

The Joplin, MO tornado’s effect on the environment & its inhabitants
Exactly one month ago tonight, a simultaneously miraculous and devastatingly horrific tornado touched down in the city of Joplin, Missouri. Described as an EF-5 (enhanced Fujita scale) tornado, it is the most feared and respected atmospheric storm result possible. Although the city of Joplin had been issued a tornado warning 20 plus minutes before it struck, the tornado’s swift power and unwavering journey through the city proves just how vulnerable society is when it comes to natural hazards.
The Midwestern states in North America are not strangers to dangerous storms. The infamous “Tornado Alley” is situated not far from Joplin, (although interestingly, Missouri is not systematically listed in Tornado Alley) spanning parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, eastern Colorado and western Iowa. It is named Tornado Alley for its consistent seasonal activity which includes frequently strong and violent tornados. Before May 22, 2011, Joplin had experienced mild funnels during heavy thunderstorms and hail but this was like nothing anyone there had every witnessed before.
I first heard about this disaster on that Sunday evening as I was studying. I received a breaking news email alert from that a large twister had damaged some of the city of Joplin. I was concerned as I have a very dear friend living in Missouri and I was not sure how close she was to the city. I sent a text to check on her & her family and while waiting for a reply, turned on the television and saw the news flash “One-third of the city is GONE”… I could not believe it. I was able to reach my friend and she was okay, having been about one hundred miles away when the tornado touched down. She was still under a tornado watch though, so we reassured each other that she’d be alright. Her thoughts then turned to family and friends in the Joplin area, who I am very glad to say, were found alive and well with very minor injuries but some loss of property.
In the weeks that have passed since that night, people continue to pass away from their storm-related injuries. The death toll currently stands at 156 people, most of who were trying to find shelter in their homes as the storm approached. Many others were caught as they drove home from graduation celebrations and evening church gatherings. By many estimates, several hundred family pets were also killed or simply blown away by the twister. The fact that anything or anyone was able to survive a tornado of that magnitude is a miracle. An Enhanced Fujita scale 5 storm is estimated to have wind speeds upwards of 261 to 318 miles per hour! At this level of great force and energy release, trees are uprooted, debarked and splintered, creating deadly debris when unleashed by the swirling funnel. In Joplin, trees that once lined beautiful neighborhood streets are now strewn about in all areas of the city. Countless debris now litters the streets and empty lots which once held apartment buildings and family homes. Over 8,000 buildings were destroyed during the tornado, accounting for almost one-third of the buildings which serve the community of 51,500 citizens. One of the symbols of the tornado has been the St. John’s Regional Medical Center, which was directly hit by the tornado resulting in several deaths as well as the complete loss of the top two floors of the hospital. X-ray slides were found the next morning in streets and driveways nearly 70 miles from Joplin. The sheer force of the storm is almost inconceivable.
While it has been hard for me to understand & accept the full scale of the disaster and the loss of life, I am also encouraged and heartened by the resilience and hope that the survivors of this storm possess. If anything is to be learned and appreciated, it is that even when we are dealt unimaginable difficulties in our environment, the human spirit’s determination to push on can help us all pull together in time of crisis.

Hart, J. (2011, June 22). Joplin death toll climbs to 156. Kansas City Star. Retrieved from
Judy, C. (2011, May 27). An inability to tell too much: Joplin tornado timeline. Cliff’s Notes. Retrieved from
Stelter, B. & Sulzberger, A.G. (2011, May 23). A rush to protect patients, then bloody chaos. New York Times. Retrieved from
Tarp, K. (2001, October 8). Clues from climatology: When and where do tornadoes occur? NOAA Research. Retrieved from

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