How Many People Died in the Joplin Tornado?

February 6, 2023

how many people died in the joplin tornado

How many people died in the joplin tornado

The death toll from a May 22, 2011, tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri, is nothing short of staggering. It marked the first time a single tornado has killed more than 100 people since 1953 in Flint, Michigan.

It also marked the first time a tornado caused more than $1 billion in damage (NWS 2011). And, it was the first time a tornado occurred during a "moderate risk" of severe weather from Oklahoma to Wisconsin.

What's more, the Joplin tornado was one of the most deadly in recent history, with 158 fatalities, including those who died hours or days after the tornado. The question of why so many people died, even with a half-hour advance warning, remains unanswered six weeks after the devastating event.

How did so many people die in a city that had already suffered several other catastrophic weather events?

To answer this, NIST engineers and a social scientist joined forces on the ground in Missouri just two days after the Joplin tornado.

They used a map of the city's tornado damage to investigate how and where people died. They found that the majority of victims, 106 in all, were killed in their homes and apartment buildings.

This finding calls into question whether residential buildings in a tornado event are built to handle the intensity of the storm. It also highlights the importance of ensuring that buildings have basements and storm cellars.


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