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Joplin, Mo., One Year Later: Breaking Down The Numbers

May 20, 2012

By Kevin Canfield, Tulsa World, Okla.

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JOPLIN, Mo. -- Wally Kennedy sat at his desk inside The Joplin Globe newspaper at 10 p.m. May 22, 2011, and typed these words: "A tornado, which at its zenith was three-quarters of a mile wide, roared across the heart of Joplin at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, killing dozens of people and injuring hundreds."

Thirty-three of the newspaper`s 117 employees either lost their homes or suffered heavy damage to them. One employee, page designer Bruce Baillie, died in the storm.

"You realize when you do this that you work with an extraordinary group of people," Kennedy said. "... They lost their homes, they lost a co-worker. They get knocked down, they get right back up."

Kennedy, a life-long Joplin resident, calls it the most important story of his life. And yet, his name is nowhere to be found on it. Instead, the byline accurately reads: "From Staff Reports."

"After the tornado happened, we got pieces of information -- there was an editor here who was putting this together in a form -- and then when I walk in the door, (Editor Carol Stark) says, `We need a lead (first sentence) on this story,` and that became my job, and I had one hour to do it."

The Globe was honored nationally for its work. Its newsroom includes 29 people, and on that devastating Sunday afternoon, about half of them made it in to work. Readers devoured every word and photo the 30,000-subscriber newspaper could print. The Globe`s Web and social media traffic spiked.

"We sold out day after day," Stark said. "We were selling an extra 10,000 papers (a day), especially Sundays through that first month."

A year after the storm, Kennedy, 59, knows there`s no shaking the story of a lifetime. Visiting Buckingham Palace in London last year, a couple asked where he was from. Kennedy told them.

"The woman stops," Kennedy said. "`Joplin, Missouri. Why do I know that name? Why do I know that?` And then she says, `You guys had a storm, didn`t you?` I say, `Yeah, we had a storm.` And she says, `It was a bad one, wasn`t it?`

"I said, `Yeah, it was really bad.`" Tornado numbers An EF-5 tornado, with winds exceeding 200 mph, struck Joplin, Mo., at 5:41 p.m. on May 22, 2011. It is the deadliest tornado since modern record-keeping began in 1950. It is the eighth-deadliest tornado in U.S. history. The storm touched down at the edge of the western city limits, traveled on the ground to the eastern city limits and continued into the city of Duquesne and rural Jasper County.

Fatalities: 161

Injured: More than 1,000

Homes destroyed and/or damaged: 7,500

Damaged or destroyed businesses: 553 (446 have since reopened)

Jobs affected: 5,000 (3,000 back to work)

Estimated property damage: $1.5 billion

People displaced: 9,200

Approximate Joplin population: 50,175

Pets displaced and taken to emergency pet shelter: 1,308

Pets returned to owners by ASPCA & Joplin Humane Society: 529

Major path of destruction: 6 miles long by up to 1 mile wide

Sources: City of Joplin, National Weather Service as of April 2012

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(c)2012 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.)

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Story Image: In this Oct. 29, 2011, file photo, volunteer Lyn Kent, of Tulsa, Okla., holds a wall as new homes are raised in the Joplin, Mo. Since the May 22 tornado, thousands of volunteers have come to Joplin to help, including many Joplin natives that gave up careers elsewhere to come home to help with the town`s long recovery. (AP Photo/The Joplin Globe, T. Rob Brown, File)

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