On May 22, an F-5-rated tornado tore through southwest Missouri, destroying one-third of the town of Joplin. With winds over 200 mph and a path spanning nearly a mile wide and six miles long, if left behind utter destruction. It claimed the lives of 157 people, making it the deadliest tornado since official records started being kept in the 1950s. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it is also the seventh deadliest in U.S. history based on estimates dating to the 1800s. 2011 became the fourth most lethal tornado season on record.
In the weeks after the storm, there were five more deaths and many became ill from a rare and aggressive fungal infection caused by debris spread by the storm. Scientists also warned of the environmental impacts of the storm and potential health hazards such as ground water contamination.
An outpouring of support for Joplin came through Facebook groups, charities, and a benefit concert and telethon. Social networks like Facebook were a gathering place for people who wanted to help. The Joplin Tornado Recovery page gained publicity with the help of Oprah and the United Way, raising $1.7 million for the stricken community. With assistance from FEMA, charities, and fundraisers, the long rebuilding process is now under way in Joplin.
Damages from the tornado are estimated at $7 billion.
Ongoing relief efforts:
Becky Uline is an editor and musician living in San Francisco, where she enjoys digging into Yahoo! data as a sidekick to trend-finding sleuth Vera H-C Chan. Most of her writing is of the musical variety for her band, the Northerlies.