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New Beginning for Joplin After the Tornado

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NOAA photo of tornado damage to St. John's Mercy Hospital in Joplin

NOAA photo of tornado damage to St. John's Mercy Hospital in Joplin

The heart of Joplin Missouri was, in many respects, St. John’s Mercy Hospital. The city’s residents were born there, healed there and often spent their final days there. On May 22, 2011, an F5 tornado tore its way through downtown Joplin and left the hospital in ruins. That ended an era but yesterday a new era was begun with the groundbreaking ceremony for a new Mercy Hospital Joplin.

NOAA photo of damage to St. John's Mercy Hospital in Joplin after the tornado

NOAA photo of damage to St. John's Mercy Hospital in Joplin after the tornado.

The entire St. John’s campus will be leveled as the work begins on a new hospital on donated land at the intersection of I44 and Main Street. A farewell service was held in Joplin on Sunday for the old hospital and a groundbreaking ceremony for the new one.

St. John’s Mercy sits over abandoned lead mines that date to the mid 1800’s. Engineers were uncertain if a controlled demolition would be safe so the site will be cleared using conventional methods. During the six weeks of demolition, as much of the existing structure as possible will be salvaged. The buildings will be stripped of wiring and pipes that will go to the scrap yard. The concrete and asphalt will be ground up and used for fill on the site.

Science will also be served during the demolition. Some parts of the building will be sent to various labs for study of the effects of the tornado on the building and its components.

The hospital has donated about 12 acres of the old site to the Joplin schools. An elementary school will be built there to replace two schools destroyed by the tornado.

At the new site, an innovative project is rescuing about 400 trees from the bulldozers. The site was scoured by certified arborists for the best saplings. They were tagged and have been transplanted to a local nursery where they will be cared for. In 2014, in preparation for the opening of the new Mercy Hospital Joplin, they will be replanted as part of the final landscaping. The trees selected are the ones best suited for Joplin’s climate and soil.

The FEMA blog describes the recovery efforts in Joplin.

  • 1.2 million cubic yards of debris removed
  • 3,600 building permits issued
  • 167 temporary classrooms and 67 temporary safe rooms
  • 337 families in temporary housing
  • 50 percent of the homes destroyed are being rebuilt
  • 90 percent of the businesses damaged have reopened

The National Weather Service has released a report titled Joplin, Missouri, Tornado – May 22, 2011.

NOAA map of Joplin tornado track

The tornado was rated EF-5 on the Enhanced-Fujita Scale, with its maximum winds estimated at more than 200 mph. The path of the entire tornado was 22.1 miles long and was up to 1 mile in width. The EF-4/EF-5 damage path was roughly 6 miles long from near Schifferdecker Avenue along the western portions of Joplin to near Interstate 44 east of Joplin, and generally ½ to ¾ of a mile wide along the path. NOAA map.

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