Sunday, May 22, 2011

Powerful twister plows through Missouri town

(Holly Demotte-Morales via Fox 4 Kc)

KANSAS CITY (Reuters) - A powerful tornado plowed through the southwestern Missouri town of Joplin on Sunday, flattening numerous homes and badly damaging a hospital there, according to authorities and television footage of the storm's aftermath.

Missouri State Highway Patrol dispatcher Charles Bradley said the precise extent of the damage was not immediately known but it appeared that the devastation could rival the destruction left by a deadly twister that hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama, last month.

"It's kind of like Tuscaloosa again," he said. More than 30 people perished in that storm.

"It's done quite a bit of damage," one Joplin police department dispatcher told Reuters by telephone, speaking of Sunday's storm, before hanging up. "It hit quite a few parts of town."

Overhead video carried on the Weather Channel showed extensive areas where whole neighborhoods had been leveled. It was not immediately clear whether there were fatalities or serious injuries.

A local hospital, St. John's Regional Medical Center, appeared to have sustained heavy damage.

Steve Runnels, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Springfield, Missouri, near Joplin, said indications were that the tornado was very powerful.

"We have reports of significant structural damage to strong buildings," Runnels said. "Automobiles have been flipped, bark was stripped off trees."

Danny Gordon, an emergency services dispatcher in neighboring Newton County, said damage seemed to be heaviest on the south end of Joplin and that a triage center was being set up on the scene.

"We have asked all available law enforcement from adjoining counties for assistance," he said.

A tornado warning continued for parts of southwest Missouri for twisters that may be part of the same storm system, he told Reuters.

Credit: Fox 4 KC


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