05.22.11

Shocking Photos of the Joplin Tornado Aftermath

In the Missouri town flattened by the worst U.S. tornado in 60 years, 117 have been reported dead—and another 1,500 are missing. Read the latest updates, plus photos of the wreckage.

Severe weather and tornadoes killed six people in Oklahoma and Kansas Tuesday night, though Joplin, Missouri, was spared another hit. See photos.

At least two tornados hit Oklahoma Tuesday, killing at least four people. The storms struck during rush hour, injuring motorists along Interstate 40 and U.S. 81, Canadian County Sheriff Randall Edwards said, while destroying houses and causing a gas leak in the nearby city of El Reno. Officials said the storm system was moving north toward Oklahoma City. Two people were also killed in Kansas when fierce winds threw a tree onto their van. More twisters were also expected to hit Joplin, Missouri, the city devastated Sunday by a tornado that claimed at least 122 lives, the single deadliest tornado since records started being kept in 1960, but the warning was lifted late Tuesday.

Roughly 1,500 people have been reported missing in Joplin, MO following Sunday’s deadly tornado, a fire department official said on Tuesday. The city of Joplin has about 49,000 inhabitants. While the number of missing is alarming, it is possible that some of them survived or fled ahead of the tornado, but have been unable to notify authorities. On Monday, rescuers pulled seven people out of buildings that had collapsed, but no additional survivors had been found on Tuesday. The tornado, which cut a three-quarter mile wide path through the town, also injured 500 people and damaged 30 percent of the town’s buildings.

The twister had winds of 190 to 198 miles per hour, and it has been given a rating of EF4, the second highest rating assigned to twisters based on damage they cause. It is the deadliest single tornado since 1925 when a tornado in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana killed 695 people.

2011 is already the deadliest tornado season since 1953 and more big storms may be on the way. What’s going on? One possible answer is La Niña, the cyclical drop in Pacific temperatures that alters prevailing winds and causes more thunderstorm “super cells.” (The Daily Beast ranks the most-tornado prone states.)

Brian Ries is senior social media editor at The Newsweek Daily Beast Co. He lives in Brooklyn with his two cats, Peter Ike Lee and Lucky Mr. Loki. His Twitter account is not yet verified.