(Photo: REUTERS/Eric Thayer)
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.
"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 <em>loud</em> ... I guess it was the building exploding. You think, 'This is it.'"