Remembering: Joplin Tornado Timeline from National Weather Service Springfield, Mo.

The NWS-SGF STORYMAP feat. archive radar, images, maps, and more.
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JOPLIN, Mo. — We remember the day 11 years ago that changed many of our lives forever, the EF5 tornado that tore Joplin in half.  Information provided National Weather Service STORYMAP.

Joplin EF-5 Tornado May 22nd, 2011

  • Time: 5:34 PM – 6:12 PM
  • EF rating: EF-5
  • Wind speed: In excess of 200 mph
  • Path length: 22.1 miles
  • Max width: 0.75 to 1.00 mile
  • Injuries: 1000+
  • Fatalities: 158
  • Homes/Buildings lost: Over 7000

“On May 22, 2011, one of the deadliest tornadoes in United States history struck Joplin, Missouri, killing 158 and injuring over 1000. This event was one of the most significant tornadoes in United States history. The Joplin tornado is the 7th deadliest tornado on record. Winds in excess of 200 mph resulted in catastrophic damage to portions of Joplin. This tornado continues to be researched and paved the way for the National Weather Service in Building a Weather-Ready Nation.” — NWS

Tornado Touchdown

Img 2318

National Weather Service Springfield-MO

This point marks the initial touchdown of the Joplin tornado at 5:34 pm on the western edge of the city limits of Joplin. The touchdown occurred near the junction of JJ Highway and West 32nd Street. The tornado toppled several large trees. Spotter reports noted multiple vortices rotating around the parent circulation near the beginning of the tornado. The tornado quickly intensified as it tracked to the east northeast.

St. John’s Regional Medical Center


St. John’s / Mercy Hospital, Joplin, Mo.

The tornado quickly widened and increased in intensity as it entered the Joplin city limits. Numerous homes, businesses and vehicles were destroyed as it approached St. John’s Medical Center. St. John’s took a direct hit. Interior walls and ceilings sustained severe damage inside the medical center. In the parking lot, concrete parking stops rebarred into the asphalt were lifted and tossed. Large steel support beams were curved, twisted or distorted. Debris piling was evident with vehicles being crushed, flattened and wrapped around trees.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church


St. Mary’s Catholic Church and School. Both relocated but the cemetery to north remains.

As the tornado continued along its path, it reached peak intensity and was at roughly a mile wide. St. Mary’s Catholic Church was nearly leveled as the tornado tracked to the east northeast. The only portions of the church remaining were the steel cross and a small portion of the metal roof. Neighborhoods east of McClelland Boulevard became unrecognizable as homes were swept from their foundations.

Joplin High School


Joplin High School

The tornado roared on as it crossed 25th Street and South Main Street. The destruction continued at Joplin High School where sections of the building were completely destroyed. A school bus was tossed on top of the destroyed bus garage. Surrounding businesses, homes, and buildings were totally destroyed. Many open fields were covered with boards, limbs, steel beams, fencing, and other materials embedded deeply into the ground.

Major Retailers along Range Line Road

The tornado continued its destructive path as it approached the main business sections along Range Line Road. Several well-constructed buildings were destroyed including Academy Sports, Walmart, Home Depot, the Pepsi distribution center, and Cummins generator building. The raw power of the tornado scoured asphalt parking lots, mangled steel structures, and crushed vehicles.

East Middle School


East Middle School and Soaring Heights Elementary in Duquesne, Mo.

As the tornado tracked east, it slowly weakened in intensity and was one half mile wide. Despite weakening, the tornado destroyed East Middle School along East 20th Street. Numerous warehouse style buildings and many more homes suffered moderate to severe damage. The tornado then turned to the right and moved southeast.

Tornado crosses Interstate 44


NWS-SGF view of Joplin destruction.

The tornado crossed Interstate 44 near the junction of 249/71 and Interstate 44. Cars and trucks were blown off the interstate. Highway signs became mangled pieces of metal. The tornado weakened in intensity as it crossed Interstate 44 moving southeast.

Tornado Weakens and Dissipates


Joplin Tornado, location unknown, NWS-SGF

The tornado continued to weaken and lifted about 4.8 miles northeast of Granby, Missouri. The tornado damaged homes, mobile homes, outbuildings and toppled trees before lifting.

Deadliest US Tornadoes

Joplin ranked 7th among deadliest tornadoes in United States history. Here is the list of the 25 Deadliest U.S. Tornadoes .

Also among the list of deadliest tornadoes is the  18 March 1925 Tri-state Tornado  (1st) and   27 May 1896 St. Louis Tornado  (3rd).


StoryMap created by Kyle Perez, Meteorologist at NWS Springfield. Special thanks to all other NWS Springfield staff and cited sources for providing the images and data for the development of this StoryMap.

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