The town of Joplin Missouri has population of just over 50,000 people, which swells to over 240,000 people during the normal workday. May 22nd 2011 the workday was coming to a close and many were starting the commute home when funnel clouds were reported at 5:08 in Cherokee County Kansas. Nine minutes later the sirens sounded in Joplin. Eighteen minutes later an EF5 tornado with winds exceeding 200 miles per hour touched down on the west end of Joplin. Over a mile wide the tornado ran for 13 miles through the center of town as it travel out past the eastern edge and into the rural parts of Newton and Lawrence counties.
Terror gripped the thousands of people caught in the big box stores, in the little shops, offices, fast food restaurants, their cars, and homes. The emergency services were immediately overwhelmed. The news reported over 150 dead and much of the town leveled.
On our first day responding to the disaster we crested a small rise and got our first glimpse of the total devastation. A town that used to have streets lined with trees that cut the view from home to home now was flattened out there was a clear view for miles. Homes, trees, street signs were all gone or flattened. Homes looked like they had been dropped into a food processor.