JOPLIN, Mo. – It’s almost been 10 years since an EF-5 tornado ripped through Joplin. It killed more than 160 people, injured more than 1,000 and was the deadliest in modern history.
Ozarks First reporter David Chasanov dug through KOLR10’s archives to explain what happened and the impact it had on the city.
The tornado tore a 22-mile path of destruction. It began on the outside of town, and ended in the Joplin suburb of Duquesne. It’s a night many in the Ozarks will never forget.
Sandy Ferguson was a storm victim.
“Absolutely unbelievable to see what’s happened,” Ferguson said at the time.
Around 7500 buildings were damaged or destroyed on that Sunday, May 22, 2011, in Joplin 10 years ago. Darren Kyler witnessed the damage.
“We’re talking thousands of people that are homeless, that are in a state of shock, and confused,” Kyler said the night of. “It’s mile, mile and a half wide, and majority of the homes are devastated.”
More than 4,000 houses were damaged, which left an estimated 9200 people without a place to call home. Nathaniel Nolting was part of that list.
“I can’t find my ex-wife and my kids and my ex-girlfriend or my baby,” Nolting said 10 years ago. “I got a four-month-old. I can’t figure out if any of them are okay.”
For Carrie Kessler, the night made her emotional.
“The hardest part is saying goodbye to neighbors where we’ve lived and been around for 21 years,” Kessler said.
Search teams from throughout the Midwest spread out across the area for days.
Assistant Chief Les Crews with the Monarch Fire Protection District called it a “very meticulous and time-consuming search.” It was a search that wasn’t limited to homes, since some people took shelter at Walmart and Home Depot depot during the storm. Crews was optimistic about the task at hand.
“There’s still hope,” Crews said. “We always have hope and are always hoping we’re going to find someone.”
They did. But, in many cases, it was too late. Benny Isenmann shared an example.
“I know a dad and two of his children were found in Home Depot and we can’t believe that happened,” Isenmann said. “It’s heartbreaking to find out that someone you knew is gone.”
Even with damage and distractions around town, a crew found a breathing Alberta McDaniels trapped in debris. McDaniels explained how it happened.
“[They] kicked the door open and got me out,” McDaniels said.
Those from around the Ozarks and the country heard about the damage and paid Joplin a visit.. This included Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, former Governor Jay Nixon and President Barack Obama. The President spoke to a large crowd.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that joplin will rebuild,” President Obama said.
Volunteers were a big reason for Obama’s confidence, since hundreds of people came to town to offer whatever help they could. Jonathan Scales was one of them.
“When you look off in the distance and you see, you know, splintered trees for miles and miles and miles, it’s awe-inspiring,” Scales said. “And you can’t do anything other than come together with your guy next you, your neighbor, your friends.”
It’s a cause that was contagious to even for the youngest volunteers, like Kade Ervin.
“I just feel sorry for these people,” Ervin said.
Joplin’s City Manager at the time, Mark Rohr, was happy to see the support.
“It’s amazing,” Rohr said. “The outpouring of support we’ve received literally throughout the country and world.”