116 killed by Missouri tornado: Join the Live Chat
May 23rd, 2011
09:52 PM ET

116 killed by Missouri tornado: Join the Live Chat

Anderson is live from Joplin, Missouri tonight with the latest on the deadliest tornado in recorded U.S. history.

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Filed under: Live Blog
May 23rd, 2011
08:42 PM ET

New graduates face devastation after Missouri tornado

Joplin, Missouri (CNN) - Like nearly every high school senior who has ever donned a cap and gown, Scott Lauridsen was excited.

Finally, after four years at Joplin High School, it was time to go. Graduate. Celebrate. Step up to the next stage of his young life.

"I was excited - ready to start things new and move onto college and experience life and then all this happened," said Lauridsen, 18, one day after the deadliest American twister on record ripped through his hometown of Joplin, Missouri.

And now?

"Now I'm just worried about helping out with the community and getting things back together," he said.

A recent graduate's joy: Another casualty of Sunday's terrible tornado.

Lauridsen was one of about 450 seniors to receive a diploma from Joplin High School this year. Their graduation ceremony at a local university wrapped up just as the storm started to roll in.

Students filtered out of the gymnasium and onto an open lawn as proud parents, family and friends snapped pictures - smiling graduates against a backdrop of darkening skies. A light rain began to fall and people rushed to their cars.

Aaron Frost, another graduate, left with his girlfriend. They were headed to a restaurant to meet his family when Frost, 18, got a call from his mother.

"She pretty much demanded that we pulled over," he said. "I would have drove right into the storm. My mom pretty much saved me there."

Frost and his girlfriend ducked into a Fast Trip convenience store and took cover, along with about 18 other people, inside a walk-in cooler.

"You can't really do anything," he said. "We just bent over and covered our heads."

A piece of glass struck Frost's hand but otherwise he is fine. The store and his car were not as lucky.

Later, Frost went by his old school, where the roof was ripped off and debris was strewn across the lawn.

Kerry Sachetta, principal at Joplin High School, described the damage as "terrible."


Filed under: 360° Radar • Weather
May 23rd, 2011
08:00 PM ET

116 killed by Missouri tornado, tying it for deadliest on record

Joplin, Missouri (CNN) - The toll in the tornado that ripped through Joplin soared to 116 on Monday, a city official said, tying it for the single deadliest twister to ever hit American soil since the National Weather Service began keeping records 61 years ago.

City Manager Mark Rohr told reporters that people from more than 40 agencies are on the ground in the southwest Missouri city, braving relentless rain and devastating wreckage looking for survivors. They found seven people alive Monday, he said, though the number of fatalities rose to a level unmatched since a tornado struck Flint, Michigan, on June 8, 1953.

"We're going to cover every foot of this town," Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said from the National Guard Armory in Joplin. "We are ... optimistic that there are still lives to be saved. But (first responders) have seen a tremendous amount of pain already."

The Sunday-evening tornado chewed through a densely populated area of the city, causing hundreds of injuries as it tore apart homes and businesses, ripped into a high school and caused severe damage to one of the two hospitals in the city. Based on preliminary estimates, the twister ranked as an EF4 with winds between 190 and 198 mph, National Weather Service director Jack Hayes said.

"Everybody's going to know people who are dead," said CNN iReporter Zach Tusinger, who said his aunt and uncle died in the tornado. "You could have probably dropped a nuclear bomb on the town and I don't think it would have done near as much damage as it did."

The nightmare may not be over for Joplin or other parts of the United States, with the weather service warning about more potential disaster on Tuesday.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Weather
May 23rd, 2011
07:30 PM ET

Video: Rescuers in race against clock in Joplin

Editor's note: Rescue teams pull survivors from the debris, but a forecast of more bad weather may force teams to stop their search.  CNN's Brian Todd reports.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Weather
Beat 360° 5/23/11
President Barack Obama holds a hurley after it was given to him by Irish Prime Minister Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Farmleigh May 23, 2011 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo credit: Irish Government-Pool /Getty Images)
May 23rd, 2011
06:19 PM ET

Beat 360° 5/23/11

Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture you provide the caption and our staff will join in too. Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite!

Beat 360° Challenge

Filed under: Beat 360°
May 23rd, 2011
04:30 PM ET

Letters to the President: #854 'A movie worth seeing'

Reporter's Note: I write a letter to President Obama every day. It’s my way of making history.

Dear Mr. President,

I went to see an interesting movie this weekend. It is called Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a documentary by the ever-whacky Werner Herzog. Don’t take that as an insult. I’ve been of fan of his work since Aguirre: Wrath of God. How could anyone not love that scene…the raft, the monkeys, the crazy conquistador?

I first started paying attention to his work when Fitzcarraldo came out in 1982. I thought it was pretty darn interesting, so I’ve kept an eye on his work ever since.

The new film is all about Chauvet cave in France, discovered in the mid-1990’s and home to the oldest known paintings on the planet. As in, some 30,000 years old. Cave bears, lions, bison, some kind of wild looking elk; they are all there, galloping across the stone walls, and now glazed over by millennia of dripping water and crystals.

Damaged Joplin hospital almost the only building left standing in area
Officials say St. John's Regional Medical Center took a direct hit when a tornado hit Joplin, Missouri, on Sunday night.
May 23rd, 2011
04:15 PM ET

Damaged Joplin hospital almost the only building left standing in area

Joplin, Missouri (CNN) - It probably was a typical Sunday night at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Missouri - patients watching television, perhaps, or eating their dinners.

But the evening wound up as anything but typical, as the nine-story building took what officials said was a direct hit from a tornado. The twister turned a place where the injured typically would seek treatment and refuge into a scene of chaos and devastation.

Windows were blown out, gurneys tossed up to five blocks away, and 183 patients and about 200 staffers were evacuated. X-rays from St. John's reportedly were found in driveways in Dade County, Missouri, about 70 miles away.

The building in southwest Joplin stood empty Monday morning, looking as if it had been bombed. Mangled cars had been tossed about the parking lot and strewn in front of the emergency room entrance. The hospital's medical helicopter lay some distance away from its landing pad, heavily damaged.

A statue of a cross out front appeared to be the only thing left undamaged. However, the hospital was very nearly the only building left standing, as the nearby area was flattened by the twister.

CNN iReporter Zach Tusinger, 26, a Joplin attorney, said his aunt and uncle, who lived five blocks from the hospital, were killed.

"My aunt was a pretty avid Facebooker, and she posted about the time I was taking the picture," he said of his iReport. "She posted, 'Oh my God' on Facebook. It's crazy because those are her last words."

Hospital officials swung into action almost immediately after the tornado struck, attempting to get patients to safety and setting up triage centers in tents outside.

The most critical patients were taken to Freeman Health System hospital, about two miles east. Patients who were able to walk were taken to Memorial Hall, a community building in Joplin, where a makeshift facility was set up. Still others were taken to a Catholic high school, at least temporarily, said Miranda Lewis, a spokeswoman for St. John's.

And more were taken to other Mercy Health System hospitals in the region, company CEO and President Lynn Britton said.

St. John's Hospital in Springfield, Missouri, about 70 miles east of Joplin, had received 58 people as of about 10 a.m. CT Monday, spokeswoman Lisa Cox said. Of those, 17 were patients from St. John's in Joplin, she said, and the others had storm-related injuries. "They're still coming," she said.

Efforts to contact Freeman Health System hospital were unsuccessful, as calls to Joplin elicited only a busy signal Monday.

There was no information on whether anyone was injured or killed when the tornado struck the hospital.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Weather