kids encyclopedia robot

2011 Joplin tornado facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
2011 Joplin tornado
EF5 tornado
A smoky, greyish funnel silhouetted against a dim background
View of the rain-wrapped tornado in Joplin
Formed May 22, 2011, 5:34 p.m. CDT (UTC−05:00)
Duration 38 minutes
Dissipated May 22, 2011, 6:12 p.m. CDT (UTC–05:00)
Max rating1 EF5 tornado
Highest winds
  • > 200 mph (320 km/h)
Damage $2.8 billion (2011 USD) (Costliest tornado in U.S. history)
$3.37 billion (2023 USD )
Total fatalities 158 direct fatalities (+8-9 indirect), 1,150 injuries
Areas affected Jasper County and Newton County, Missouri; mostly the city of Joplin (part of a larger outbreak)
1Most severe tornado damage; see Enhanced Fujita scale

The 2011 Joplin tornado was a very violent EF5 tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri on the afternoon of May 22, 2011. It had winds of over 200 miles per hour. It killed 158 people and hurt 1,150 others. It caused $2.8 billion in damage. It is the costliest tornado to hit the United States. It was the third tornado to hit Joplin since May 1971.

Meteorological synopsis

On the evening of May 21, an area of low pressure was centered over western South Dakota. Also there were steep lapse rates and dewpoints above 60°F, which led to the development of supercells later in the day. By 8:00 a.m. CDT (1300 UTC) on May 22, a cold front was forecast to pass through the region later in the day, while a dryline was forecast to intersect the cold front in Kansas. These features, accompanied by the low pressure system, encouraged very strong storm development along the cold front.

By the 11:30 a.m. the storm certainty had grown stronger. A public severe weather outlook was issued at this time, and the outlook stated that severe weather was expected that afternoon, with tornadoes, large hail, and strong winds all named as threats.

Aftermath and impact

United States Army Corps of Engineers map showing the extent of the damage

A preliminary survey of the tornado damage by the National Weather Service office in Springfield, Missouri, began on May 23. The initial survey confirmed a violent tornado rated as a high-end EF4. Subsequent damage surveys, however, found evidence of more intense damage, and so the tornado was upgraded to an EF5 with estimated winds over 200 mph (320 km/h), peaking at 225 to 250 mph (360 to 400 km/h).

According to the local branch of the American Red Cross, about 25% of Joplin was destroyed, but the city's emergency manager stated that the number was between 10 and 20%, with roughly 2,000 buildings destroyed. According to the National Weather Service, emergency managers reported damage to 75% of Joplin. In total, nearly 7,000 houses were destroyed (most of which were flattened or blown away) and over 850 others were damaged. Communications were lost in the community and power was knocked out to many areas. With communications down, temporary cell towers had to be constructed. By May 24, three towers owned by AT&T and Sprint had been restored.

Due to the severe damage caused by the tornado, the travelling Piccadilly Circus was unable to perform as scheduled. As a result, the circus employees brought their two adult elephants to help drag damaged automobiles and other heavy debris out of the streets.

East of Joplin, a Risk Management Plan facility released 3,000 to 5,000 lb (1,400 to 2,300 kg) of anhydrous ammonia; it was contained within two days.

Many homes and business have been rebuilt since the tornado. Joplin High School was reopened on September 2, 2014. St. John's Regional Medical Center (now Mercy Hospital) had to be rebuilt and was reopened in 2015.


Along with the Tri-State Tornado and the 1896 St. Louis–East St. Louis tornado, it ranks as one of Missouri's and America's deadliest tornadoes and is also the costliest single tornado in U.S. history ($2.8 billion). It was the first F5/EF5 tornado in Missouri since May 20, 1957, when an F5 destroyed several suburbs of Kansas City. It was only the second F5/EF5 tornado in Missouri history dating back to 1950. It was the deadliest U.S. tornado since the April 9, 1947 tornado in Woodward, Oklahoma, the seventh-deadliest in U.S. history. It was also the first single tornado since the June 8, 1953 F5 tornado in Flint, Michigan, to have 100 or more associated fatalities.

Images for kids

kids search engine
2011 Joplin tornado Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.