• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

69 tornadoes sweep across US, even Calif.

May 25, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Sixty-nine tornadoes plowed across several U.S. states Wednesday, including Kansas, Illinois, Indiana and even California.

At least three tornadoes were reported outside Chico, Calif. The California Highway Patrol said there were no significant damages or injuries reported.

That wasn't the case in the Midwest.

Search crews continued their search for survivors in Joplin, Mo., following a mighty tornado that killed at least 125 people.

The violent twister ravaged the southwest Missouri city Sunday, pummeling the region with winds of more than 200 mph. The National Weather Service categorized the system as an EF5, the strongest rating assigned to tornadoes based on damage.

There's no official count on how many people are missing, but officials estimate about 900 people were injured. Nine people have been rescued since Sunday's tornado, including two on Tuesday.

Tuesday night, tornado sirens had Joplin's residents ducking for cover shortly after dark. The ominous whine is something everyone there recognizes in the wake of Sunday's tornado fears.

"They are pretty scary," said Joplin resident Lisa Charboneau. "We take them very seriously now. Sometimes you think it's a false alarm, but not anymore. We don't think that anymore."

Eyewitness News reporter John Gregory and other news crew members had just sat down at an Outback Steakhouse when the sirens went off. They joined other restaurant patrons and filed into the freezer, which was the closest thing to shelter they could find.

Inside, everyone was calm but there was apprehension in the air as strangers huddled in the cold waiting for the all clear.

When the storm hit, there was heavy rain and wind, but no twisters. By Wednesday morning, the skies had cleared, but nerves were still rattled.

"Pretty scary," said Joplin resident Shelley Shimmin. "We were at my dad's house and we heard the sirens go off and we started panicking a little, you know. All over again, here it comes."

The Joplin tornado was the deadliest single twister since the weather service began keeping official records in 1950 and the eighth-deadliest in U.S. history. Scientists said it appeared to be a rare "multivortex" tornado, with two or more small and intense centers of rotation orbiting the larger funnel.

Joplin residents are banding together during this time of need, trying to help each other as they try to pick up the pieces and get their lives back together.

Volunteer Johnny Harrison was changing tires for people for free. It's a great need in the area, as the roads are cluttered with debris that is causing flat tires.

"I'm trying to take care of many of the emergency personnel and construction equipment we can. Free of charge if we can put a plug in it, get them back out there and get them productive," Harrison said.

Church groups and other volunteers were streaming into Joplin to provide food, water and other necessities for victims.

Even as Joplin limped forward, violent weather struck again, killing at least seven in Oklahoma, at least three in Arkansas and two more in Kansas. The tornadoes toppled trees, crushed cars and leveled homes.

In Oklahoma, 68 counties have declared a state of emergency.

Several tornados were caught on camera. A news crew had a close call with one just outside of Oklahoma City. Another twister was caught on camera slamming into a semi, ripping it apart. The driver survived with only minor injuries.

The National Weather Service says there have been about 1,000 tornadoes so far this year. The death toll attributed to those twisters stands at more than 500.

Find out how you can donate to the relief efforts to help the victims of the massive tornadoes, including the ones that struck Joplin, Mo.

The Associated Press contributed to this story


Load Comments