Joplin's Tornado Leaves 7 Mile Path Of Destruction
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Renee Montagne.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:
More deadly tornadoes carved through the Midwest yesterday, killing at least 13 people in Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas. The most powerful twister broke out west of Oklahoma City. It tore apart vehicles on Interstate 40, and cut a devastating path through the city of El Reno.
MONTAGNE: We'll have more coverage of those storms elsewhere in the program.
LOUISE KELLY: Now, all this comes as the town of Joplin, in Missouri, is still digging out after suffering the country's deadliest tornado in decades. At least 122 people were killed there, and hundreds remain unaccounted for.
MONTAGNE: The Joplin tornado drove straight through the city - from west to east - on Sunday evening, creating a wide path of near-total destruction. Frank Morris, of member station KCUR, retraced that path yesterday and brings us this report.
FRANK MORRIS: I'm walking along the western edge of Joplin. This is where the tornado plowed into town. It was already going full force, about two-thirds of a mile wide, with winds approaching 200 miles an hour.
MONTAGNE: We could see clouds swirling around, and that's when we ran down into their basement.
MORRIS: Kyle Carder rode out the storm with neighbors.
MONTAGNE: It didn't last more than - I don't know, it felt like a lot longer than it probably was. Maybe a minute, two minutes. I looked out their basement window and saw there wasn't a house there. And then the one behind that was gone.
MORRIS: Walking along here, you get to the top of the hill. And on this hill - looks like maybe the highest point in Joplin - you can see most of the seven- mile path of complete destruction this tornado made.
(SOUNDBITE OF POWER SAW)
MORRIS: Michel Story stands in a pile of debris that was her grandmother's home, gazing at desolation stretching to the horizon.
MONTAGNE: There's a lot of pain. How can one thing do so much damage to one little town?
MORRIS: The tornado cleared this hill and tore into St. John's Regional Health Center, one of two big hospitals here, where Brandon McCoy was at work in an office.
MONTAGNE: All the windows started shaking, and it was just - you couldn't see past the windows; there was so much debris. And then all of a sudden, the windows blew outwards and then the tornado picked it back up and it went back inside. And then, standing on the sixth floor, I was trying to help a lady out of some debris. And you look outside and just - everything's gone.
MORRIS: Tiffany Story is still clearly shaken as she points through a basement door hanging ajar.
MONTAGNE: This was the cast door, cast entrance. And where my son is standing - he's in the green shirt there, the red hair - that is the stairwell. That's where we were all hiding. It took everything I could do to hold him on the ground. I almost lost him.
(SOUNDBITE OF CRYING)
MORRIS: Two members of the cast did die. Others were badly hurt. A few more blocks, down a street resembling a war zone, two men work with a pick and shovel, digging a grave for a dog.
(SOUNDBITE OF DIGGING)
MORRIS: This mind-bogglingly destructive tornado churned on - destroying house after house after house - on the way to here, the high school, where I'm standing right now.
MONTAGNE: It's scary. I'm glad we didn't have our graduation here.
MORRIS: It's not until you clear the eastern edge of town that the wreckage starts to ease. Even here, electric power comes from mobile generators.
(SOUNDBITE OF GENERATORS)
MORRIS: For NPR News, I'm Frank Morris in Joplin, Missouri.
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