Devastating Joplin Tornado: Ten Years Later

The day started out like any other Sunday in the latter stages of spring throughout the Great Plains: hot, humid, and relatively sunny. However, that was all about to change for the residents of Joplin, Missouri, for this Sunday was never to be forgotten.


By the late morning hours on May 22nd, 2011, forecasters at the Storm Prediction Center had already issued a severe weather outlook for the Joplin area, where severe storms were forecasted for the afternoon/evening. This outlook had mentioned that there was a significant likelihood of tornadic development within these severe thunderstorms, and sure enough at around 5:15 p.m. local time, there was a tornado warning issued for the city of Joplin and surrounding areas. At just after 5:30 p.m. local time, a tornado formed to the west of Joplin, intensifying significantly as it headed towards the city. When the tornado reached Joplin, its winds maxed out at 200 mph (320 km/h).


As a result of this maximum wind speed, the tornado was rated as an EF-5, which is the most severe rating possible on the Enhanced Fujita scale. Like with every Tornado rated in this category, the destruction was unimaginable.


Photo credit: Missouri National Gaurd


The most devastating part of any natural disaster is the lives that are destroyed in the wake of mother nature's fury. This tragedy, unfortunately, had the same result. With just under 165 deaths and around 1,150 injuries, this tornado was one of the deadliest in U.S. history and the costliest single tornado ever to be recorded in the country.


Ten years have passed since this tragedy, and while the perseverance of this quiet Missouri city has healed the structural devastation, time will never erase the memories of those who lost their lives a decade ago today.



Christopher Poitras - Meteorologist