From rubble to rebuilding: A year in Joplin, Mo.

David A. Lieb

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, May 22 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

The rocky soil underneath Joplin isn't ideal for building basements, so many are now turning to so-called "safe rooms" — fortified rooms built to withstand a tornado's worst winds. Safe rooms are surging in popularity. After the storm, one local firm that makes the rooms went from four employees to 20 and has sold at least four times as many of the rooms as they did the year before the twister.


An untold number of pets were lost in the storm, but eventually there were about 500 happy reunions of animals and their owners.

A month after the tornado, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Joplin Humane Society found permanent homes for 745 pets during an "adopt-a-thon" event, drawing more than 5,700 people from 24 states. Several owners named their new pets "Joplin," while others opted for "MoJo," and "JoMo," shorthand variations of the city and state names.

One adopted pet was even named "F-5" after the savage tornado's storm rating — the strongest rating on forecasters' tornado strength scale.

Overall, the ASPCA cared for about 1,400 animals, mostly dogs and cats, who were homeless after the tornado.


The tornado was so wide and powerful that it erased many of the local landmarks that gave locals their sense of place and direction.

Whole neighborhoods were flattened. Broad-shouldered trees that had stood for decades had their limbs sheared off and were stripped of their bark. Churches were damaged or destroyed; one was reduced to only a cross that marked where the church used to be.

The most common tools used by residents — street signs and signal lights marking key intersections — were blown away. A year later, many have yet to be replaced. In late April, impatient city officials announced the city was close to getting approval for federal funding that would help replace signal lights and more than 2,000 signs destroyed in the storm.

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