May 22, 2011, Joplin, Mo. The storms had been threatening all day, and the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning at 5:17 p.m. At 5:41, it arrived. With winds clocked at well over 200 mph, it cut a swath through the city from west to east. Traveling more than 13 miles, it ranged up to a mile wide at times. Later it would be determined the tornado contained three separate vortexes. The eye was estimated at 300 yards wide. Initially rated an EF4, it was upgraded after evaluation of radar data and the pattern of destruction to an EF5, the most destructive twister possible.
Within minutes there were 8,000 structures destroyed. This included 400 businesses, two of Joplin’s five fire stations and eight school buildings, as well as an estimated 18,000 vehicles. As it incapacitated St. John’s Regional Medical Center, one of the city’s two hospitals, the storm came within a quarter mile of hitting the other, Freeman West. After going through Joplin, the tornado shifted path to a southeasterly direction. Traffic along Interstate 44 was disrupted as tractor-trailers were overturned and thrown about. This would compromise the later influx of responders.
Full article is over on EMSResponders.