As Joplin digs out, more storms pound Plains

The Kansas City StarMay 25, 2011 


Lightning strikes the roof of St. John's Hospital in Joplin, Missouri, on Monday afternoon, May 23, 2011 following Sunday's tornado.(David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/MCT)

DAVID EULITT — Kansas City Star/MCT

JOPLIN, Mo. — The death toll from Sunday’s tornado has risen to 122, making it the eighth-deadliest tornado in U.S. history, the National Weather Service said.

The Joplin twister was upgraded to EF-5, the strongest category on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, with winds exceeding 200 mph. The storm was apparently a “multivortex” tornado, with two or more small and intense centers of rotation orbiting the larger funnel, a rare occurrence.

It’s the country’s deadliest storm since 1950.

The number of those still missing isn’t known because many have left Joplin to stay with relatives and friends. Rescue workers on Tuesday were able to save two more people from the wreckage, bringing the total to nine, even as they braced for more storms Tuesday night.

Those storms brought their own misery: Several tornadoes struck Oklahoma City and its suburbs during rush hour, killing at least five people and injuring at least 60 others, including three children who were in critical condition, authorities said.

Cherokee Ballard, a spokeswoman for the state medical examiner, said four people died west of Oklahoma City in Canadian County, where a weather-monitoring site in El Reno recorded 151 mph winds.

At Chickasha, 25 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, a 26-year-old woman died when a tornado hit a mobile home park where residents had been asked to evacuate their trailers, Assistant Police Chief Elip Moore said. He said a dozen people were injured and that hundreds were displaced when the storm splintered their homes.

In Kansas, two people were killed when a tree was blown into their van near St. John northwest of Wichita.

In Texas, funnel clouds were reported near Dallas and Fort Worth. Officials at Love Field and Dallas-Fort Worth International moved airline passengers to airport basements and interior rooms.

Most of Missouri and Kansas was under severe storm watches and warnings most of Tuesday. The Kansas City area was buffeted by 1-inch hail and 60 mph wind Tuesday night, and Joplin was under another tornado warning.

Authorities in Joplin plan to continue their searches today, even as hope starts to dim for those seeking their loved ones.

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