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Tuesday May 24, 2011 - Continuous tornado coverage - KOAM TV 7

Tuesday May 24

Posted: Updated: May 24, 2011 10:46 PM CDT

Summary

Difficulties communicating makes it difficult to get an exact count of the number of people unaccounted for.

The death toll climbs to 122.  An estimated 8,000 structures are damaged over a 1,800 acre area; and, the National Weather Service confirms that it was an EF-5 tornado that went through Joplin.

Officials beg "sight-seers" to stay out of the disaster area and an old friend in Joplin covering the tornado aftermath stops by the KOAM station - Brian Williams.

9:00 AM CST

A news conference was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. today.  We will post information as soon as possible.

9:45 AM CST

Joplin Fire Chief Mitch Randles said power issues and cell issues are hampering their effort to get an exact count of the number of people missing.

In a news conference this morning Randles said they are still holding at 116 dead.

Randles said they are still finding survivors - and confirmed that seven were found yesterday, including one at Home Depot.

Randles said their quick search through the area has been completed and phase two - a deeper search - is underway and they hope to get that done this afternoon.

He said that they will again search Home Depot and Walmart, larger buildings that require special tools and knowledge, now that those resources are available.

Randles said they will also search the blocks surrounding 20th and Connecticut due to the large number of residents living in that area.

A third sweep of the city will be done - again, a slower, more methodical search - where they will follow the path of the storm, searching every structure.  Randles hopes to be halfway done with this third sweep before severe weather hits the area later today.

After that, Randles said a fourth search will be done using search and rescue dogs that are on the way to the area.

9:55 AM CST

In this mornings news conference city officials warned residents that they will be TESTING tornado sirens at 10:30 this morning - again, this is only a test.

In the news conference law enforcement officials again asked "sight-seers" to please stay home.  They said Monday was a problem with sight-seers and say "if you want to watch it - watch it on TV... if you don't belong there please stay home".

They also say a few isolated incidents of looting but those were taking care of.

Also,  two officers on post at 20th and Connecticut were struck by lightning Monday evening.  One of the officers received minor injuries, and one is in critical condition.

Those effected by the tornado are to visit DisasterAssistance.gov, call 1.800.621.FEMA, or use your mobile phone to visit m.fema.gov.

11:45 AM CST

In a news release just received, the Ozarks Chapter of the American Red Cross says financial contributions, rather than supplies, are the primary need at this time in Joplin.

* Contributions of food, clothing, water or other basic need supplies are NOT being accepted at this time at Missouri Southern State University. *

Those wishing to make financial donations should visit the www.redcross.org website or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Direct donations may be sent to the local Red Cross headquarters at 410 S. Jackson Ave. in Joplin. Mo. (64801).

Persons can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Additionally, the effort is underway to effectively coordinate the efforts of those wanting to help the victims of the Joplin disaster.

Those wanting to volunteer, including those with medical training, are asked to call the United Way 211 at 1-800-427-4626.  

Others wanting to assist may come to the Beimdiek Recreation Center on the MSSU campus.

Officials say volunteers should NOT come to the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center/Young Gymnasium areas.

-WWW.MSSU.EDU-

12:45 PM CST

The Associated Press is reporting a nursing home owner says Sunday's tornado killed 11 from his property alone.

4:12 PM CST

A Joplin woman trapped in the rubble of her own home saw the damage for the first time today.

Alice Dixon embraced her daughter, shaken by the sight of her home demolished by Sunday's tornado.

Alice was trapped under fallen walls, a door and the roof as she took cover in what was once a hallway.

She was rescued by her son-in-law.

The family tried to recover mementos today.

Alice was calm, but said she prayed intensely when she was buried.

"I'm bruised a lot," Alice told us.  "I was surprised - had my legs stuff - was on them - I couldn't move and then my back.  I'm pretty sore but I'm alive."

The Dixon family found four pickup truck loads of items to salvage - things they say might not mean anything to others but hold memories for them.

5:30 PM CST

In a news conference currently underway Joplin city officials said the death toll has climbed to 122; and, more than 750 are injured.

Also, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service confirmed it was an EF-5 tornado that struck Joplin.

5:39 PM CST

A 12-member crew of police, firefighters and public works staff were in the area of 32nd and Main in Joplin helping with the recovery effort when two officers were injured in a lightning strike on Monday evening.

One of the officers, Jeff Taylor, remains in critical condition.

Taylor works for the Riverside, Missouri Police Department.  Taylor is 31 years old and has worked for the riverside p-d since 2005.

Before that he worked for the Webb City Police Department.

5:55 PM CST

Joplin city manager Mark Rhor says in the news conference that search and rescue efforts continue.

Rhor says the death toll is now at 122, but names are still not being released.

He said nine survivors have been found over the past two days during search efforts.

8,000 structures were damaged in Joplin over a 1,800 acre area.

Rhor says the city has been testing the siren system, and all but two are working.  Those will be repaired.  In the meantime, the uncovered area will be notified with PA by the police department.

Rhor says 1,500 people have been unaccounted for.  However, he emphasizes that does not mean they are deceased.  He says some residents may have been out of the area when the tornado hit.

Please contact 417.659.5464 if you have not been accounted for.

Bill Davis with the National Weather Service said a disaster survey team determined that it was an EF-5 tornado that hit Joplin.  He said the ratings are based on the track and greater than 200 mph winds.

6:19 PM CST

President Obama has announced plans to visit Missouri on Sunday.  We do not know his exact itinerary at this time.

Earlier today, Missouri lawmakers made their way to see what is left of the tornado ravaged areas of Joplin.

Representative Billy Long, Senator Claire McCaskill and Governor Jay Nixon toured the damage and debris.

The governor says he has never seen anything like what he viewed today.

They all say seeing it first hand made it real.

"This is total devastation," says Governor Nixon.  "A tornado screwed its way into the earth and stayed in one place and ripped apart houses at a level we've never seen."

"When you drive through this and you walk through it when you see people's lives scattered far and wide, and the fact it does look like a number of bombs have gone off, you realize the kind of help this community is going to need," says Senator McCaskill.

"It looks like a tornado hit a salvage yard is what it looks like," says Representative Long.  "You see cars, not only one on top of another, but they look like they've all been individually tumbled and damaged from every angle then piled on top of each other.  If this was an F-4 - or an EF-4 - I don't ever want to see an EF-5."

The National Weather Service confirmed later in the day that the tornado that struck Joplin was an EF-5.

7:42 PM CST

Freeman hospital crews have been working non-stop taking in patients and helping coordinate emergency efforts.

Hospital officials say they have treated 550 patients since the storm hit Sunday.  They have transported out hundreds more.

And 11 people have died at Freeman hospital since Sunday.

Freeman's Urgent Care locations in Joplin and Webb City are open for patient care.

Counseling is available by calling 417-347-7730.

For those who need crisis counseling the number has changed for the Ozark Center Crisis hotline.  That number is now 417-347-7070.

Officials at St. John's have told us that all nursing staff need to report for their regular shift at Joplin's Memorial Hall.

9:01 PM CST

Joplin shelter drop off locations:

CITY NAME PHONE ADDRESS
Joplin, MO Ignite Church 417-438-6840 710 S. Maiden Lane
Joplin, MO Leggett & Platt Center at MSSU    
Webb City, MO Mount Hope Church of Christ 417-624-1795 2830 Mount Hope Rd
Joplin, MO Watered Gardens Gospel Rescue Mission 417-623-6030 531 Kentucky

 

 

 

 

 

9:02 PM CST

Sunday's tornado has brought an old friend to the TV station.  Brian Williams of the NBC Nightly News is an old friend and colleague who got his start in television here at KOAM-TV back in the early 1980's.

While he was in town for network coverage of the tornado aftermath he stopped by to revisit the station and some old friends.

Brian lived in Joplin for 13 months, but it's a connection he still feels strongly.

So for Brian, as for all of us, this disaster feels personal.

"(The people in Joplin) were fantastic," Brian said.  "In my little apartment complex I knew everybody.  On Saturday's we would gather at the pool and on Friday nights you would go up to the Red Lion to shoot darts and have a beer.  I always went downtown.

"I love history so I used to go to the Bonnie and Clyde garage over on 34th and Oak Ridge.  I would visit that and look for bullet holes that I knew were in the masonry and in the window frames.  I loved living there."

As for the circumstances for his return, Brian said it is difficult to see first-hand.

"It's really hard - 116 souls as we stand here but we know the number's going to go up.  I fear people are in their basements covered in debris.  It's going to be a long hard slug.

"I was just in Tuscaloosa and I thought that was my new benchmark.  When I lived out here I shot tornados in Neosho, Galena, and Cherokee, and this is the new benchmark for me.  I've never seen a debris field like this before.

"It's going to take a while for this economy to get back on its feet."

Brian says when he arrived in Joplin his first stop was the Park Apartment complex where he used to live.  That complex was not hit by the tornado.

It was good to see Brian again.

We've agreed that next time we'll make sure it's under less tragic circumstances.

10:41 PM CST

A Joplin business makes a major donation to help with tornado recovery efforts.

Today, TAMKO Building Products announced it is donating $1 million to the Red Cross to help Joplin recover and rebuild.  The companies owner said he wants today's donation to encourage other local businesses to do the same.

Home Depot and Walmart each have donated $1 million to recovery efforts.

The Kansas City Chiefs have pledged $35,000.  And the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals have each pledged $25,000.

In addition to the $35,000 donation, the Kansas City Chiefs are teaming with the Salvation Army and "Heart-to-Heart International" for a bottled water-drive at Arrowhead Stadium.

That drive took place today and will take place again tomorrow.  The Salvation Army will then ship the water to Joplin.

Home Depot was one of the most heavily damaged buildings in a tornado that leveled Joplin, Missouri on Sunday.

"The devastation in Joplin is indescribable and we will be there to help this community get back on its feet," said Frank Blake, chairman and CEO of The Home Depot.  "As we learned through our work in the Gulf after similar destruction from Katrina, the rebuilding will take years, and we are committed to Joplin for the long haul.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the residents of Joplin who are now struggling in the aftermath of this terrible storm."

Home Depot has also started a campaign to help associates and their families affected by the tornado.

10:46 PM CST

The city of Joplin is dealing with not only a loss of life and injuries but also a loss of businesses and economic devastation.

Hundreds of small businesses and thousands of residential units were impacted by the storm.

The economic impact will be felt for a long time as some businesses were completely wiped away while others were damaged and can not reopen at this time.

A business recovery center is open at Missouri Southern.

"Group of our banks here in the community to work on financing programs as well as counseling, so the idea in that is through the Small Business Center at MSSU and their staff to be able to provide businesses with general counseling, ideas on business plans, things they need to look at in recovery," says Rob O'Brian, President of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Small Business Administration will also be set up assisting with loans and other programs to get businesses back on their feet.

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