Saturday, July 2, 2016

Second on the 2nd: A look back at the Joplin tornado five years ago

It doesn't seem possible that the Joplin, MO (Missouri for those of you who live in countries other than the U.S.) tornado occurred five years ago.  However, looking back to Sunday, May 22, 2011, it was the deadliest in the United States since 1950 which is when modern record-keeping began. It injured more than 1,000 people and directly killed 148.  The final tally was 161 who lost their lives as a result of this tornado.   It was classified as an EF-5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, with winds clocked at more than 200 mph.

According to a report later put out by the City of Joplin, the storm damaged or destroyed 7,500 residences and 500 businesses, displaced 9,200 people, affected 5,000 employees and generated 3 million cubic yards of debris.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the tornado affected a significant part of the city.  Because of the rarity and historical significance of this event, Joplin became a test study for the NWS, since it was confirmed there had been ample warning prior to the event.  This included tornado sirens that went off at all locations along with TV, radio, and social media warnings.  Although many people took shelter wherever they could, many did not.

My Second on the 2nd post looks back at this chilling tornado with photos that show St. John's Regional Medical Center.  The above photo shows how the force of the storm carried the life flight helicopter off the roof of the hospital, crushing it into the ground. I was quite concerned because before moving to Wichita, KS, I lived in and still own a home in a suburb of Joplin.  The opening statement below sounds much like what I've gone through off and on since mid-May of this year.  Here is my post from May 25, 2011 in its entirety.

Photos from Joplin, MO you won't see on the networks

I've battled high winds, hail, thunder, lightening, and rain for the past day and night, so turned my computer off. When I finally turned it back on a couple of hours ago, I found these images from one of my friends, who took these photos with her cell phone. All photos are from St. John's, but I have no idea how she got access to the building.

This is one of the side yards at St. John's Regional Medical Center. I doubt there are any windows left in the building.

Above you can see part of the administration building and how the windows are blown out of the inner offices.

This is one of the waiting rooms.

This is the outdoor cafeteria. It just goes to show the quirky nature of tornadoes. The iron railing is twisted like a piece of licorice, several of the concrete columns around the building are rubble, but the wooden fence, gate, and trees in this court yard are standing and undamaged.

More destruction.

Not only did the tornado take or uproot everything, the rain entering through the windows and ceilings kept the building in water most of yesterday, allowing the mold to grow among the mud and debris. At this point, structural engineers are determining if the building is safe. This hospital may never recover.

Of course, it was probably one of the safer places to be last Sunday. Note the trees are barren in the above photo, but there are leaves in the photo two images up.

You wouldn't have been safe if you stood in this chair's path. I was told this is not a rotated photo. Instead, the chair is lodged in the wall.

I appreciate my friend sending these photos. The destruction is unreal, and that is just the building! Imagine all the lives that were affected in this hospital.


As an aside, after I posted this in 2011, I learned that the building's foundation was compromised.  I learned the existing hospital was structurally unsafe and was eventually demolished. Temporary buildings were constructed nearby. One week after the tornado, St. John's (now known as Mercy) announced they would rebuild.

And rebuild they did.  To the highest standards, in fact.  During construction designers placed their emphasis on building a structure that could withstand a high-end tornado from the top down.  Hurricane-rated precast concrete makes up the hardened exterior of reinforced brick and stone. The windows are all custom designed and the first of their kind.  Since most of the windows were destroyed in the original hospital, perfecting tornado-strength windows was a prime focus. The glass had to pass rigorous tests and wasn't approved until it could stop the penetration of a two-by-four.

The rooms and utilities are laid out to keep the hospital running in the middle of an emergency. Protected areas were built in to every floor, and the operating rooms were moved to underground levels.  Water, back-up generators, and a fuel tank are located in a bunker-like protected structure, where all pipes and cables run underground to the hospital.  The underground cables come from two separate directions. Two lines of water, power, and data communication come into the hospital from different directions in case one fails.  St. John's reopened as Mercy Joplin in March, 2015 and is now considered one of the safest hospitals in the U.S. during emergencies and disasters for its structural and functional integrity as outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO).

 Since I have met and interacted with many internet readers, friends, and followers since the above 2011 blog post went live, I thought it was timely to share it again.

So now it's time to share your Second on the 2nd.  The rules are quite simple.  All you have to do is bring back a post that you are especially proud of, one that is relevant to current events, or one you shared before anyone knew your blog existed.  Then link below and Bleubeard and I, along with other Second on the 2nd friends, will be by to visit.  If you are new to Second on the 2nd, and your blog post permits only GOOGLE+ responses, I (and several others) can´t comment on your entry.  It's all in the way you set up your blog responses.

Please be aware this link is only open for five days, so it's best to post sometime on the 2nd.

12 thoughtful remarks:

Valerie-Jael said...

Sometimes storms can be so scary. The photos look awful, what a lot of devastation they caused. WE have had a fair share of bad weather these past weeks, but nothing like this, for which I am thankful. Have a great weekend! Hugs, Valerie

Lisca Meijer said...

I have lived through several earthquakes but never have I experienced a tornado. What a devastation! Reallt eary that the wooden fence and tree were still standing in the particular location.
It's so good to hear that they were able to rebuild! And what a rebuild! I must now go and Google Mercy Joplin to see the new building.
Thank you so much for a most interesting (and scary) post,
Have a good weekend,

froebelsternchen Susi said...

My gosh - so much devastation - aweful!
We had a mini-tornado here in summer 2011 and it was for sure nothing like this my gosh, but since this time I knew how powerful nature can be from one minute to the other - there were much damage here but once again - nothing like this !
Happy Saturday dear Elizabeth!
oxo Susi

My name is Erika. said...

Wow, that was some post. The damage looks terrible, and I hope everyone got out of that hospital safely. Amazing that your friend got those photos. Hopefully the town has rebuilt and is back to normal. I've sat through tornado warnings before but after seeing these photos I am going to be more afraid if I hear there is one near by. Have a great Saturday ELizabeth. Hope you have a great holiday weekend. Hugs-Erika

Sami said...

Goodness, that was devastating!
Your friend was very brave to get those photos.
I'm glad the hospital was rebuilt to the highest standards, hopefully the town was also rebuilt to the same standards to avoid future destruction in event of another tornado.
Have a great weekend Elizabeth.

Halle said...

I remember that storm and the devastation. Those photos look like a war zone not a natural disaster. So chilling.

Meggymay said...

Oh my, what devastation the effects must have effected so many, but as you said it make them rethink when the hospital was rebuilt. I hope the rest of the building were put up in the same safety conscious manner.
Yvonne xx

Helen said...

what a terrifying event to live through and what devastation.

pearshapedcrafting said...

My Goodness! How scary that must have been - I have always thought disaster movies exaggerate but I am not so sure now - this really does look dreadful! I am pleased to read that there is a new , stronger building now! Enjoy your weekend! We have had quite a lot of rain and flash floods - my son had to paddle to get into his house! Hugs, Chrisx

Dianne said...

these photos are amazing...and then to read the foundation of the building was unstable. Your friend took quite a risk...maybe I can guess who...;) the chair embedded in the wall is just chilling!

Divers and Sundry said...

Wow :( It hurts to think how much devastation there was and how long re-building takes.

kathyinozarks said...

thank you for the link, I remember how horrible this was-it took the hospital too and they set up a temporary one. when my Mom was alive I always took a bus to Indiana to visit her once a year and the year after this tornado I rode with someone who lived in Joplin-his first time back home since the tornado