(Photo: REUTERS/Eric Thayer)A view of the devastation after a tornado blew the roof off the St. John's Regional Medical Center, where about 180 patients cowered as the fierce winds blew, in Joplin, Missouri May 23, 2011. A monster tornado killed at least 116 people in Joplin when it tore through the heart of the small Midwestern city, destroying thousands of homes and businesses.
The death toll for the tornado that hit Joplin, Mo. has risen to 117 as of Tuesday morning. It is the deadliest tornado recorded in U.S. history, according to the National Weather Service.
The half-mile-wide twister with estimated wind speed of 190-198 mph damaged or destroyed somewhere between 10 percent to 30 percent of Joplin and roughly 2,000 structures, estimates the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency.
5 photos(Photo: Reuters/Eric Thayer)Ryan Harper pauses while looking for a missing friend after a devastating tornado hit Joplin, Missouri, May 23, 2011. A monster tornado killed at least 116 people in Joplin, Missouri when it tore through the heart of the small Midwestern city, ripping the roof off a hospital and destroying thousands of homes and businesses.
"It was dark, and then it felt like something sucked all the air out," recalled survivor Deborah Ballew, who works as a nurse at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Mo., to USA Today. "And there was this tremendous sound, the loudest I've ever heard. I've herd tank fire, but this was loud ... I guess it was the building exploding. You think, 'This is it.'"