A massive tornado blasted its way across southwestern Missouri on Sunday, flattening several blocks of homes and businesses in Joplin and leaving residents frantically scrambling through the wreckage.
Hundreds of windows were blown out St. John's Regional Medical Center, where a few moments' notice gave staff time to hustle patients into hallways before the tornado struck the multistory building. All were quickly evacuated into the parking lot to be moved to other hospitals in the region.
The same storm system that produced the Joplin tornado spawned twisters along a broad swath of the Midwest, from Oklahoma to Wisconsin. At least one person was killed in Minneapolis.
Missouri authorities said they could confirm that people had died in Joplin, but the numbers were unknown late Sunday. The storm that hit the city spread debris about 60 miles away, with medical records, X-rays, insulation and other items falling to the ground in Greene County, said Larry Woods, assistant director of the Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management.
Emergency management officials rushed heavy equipment to Joplin to help lift debris and clear the way for search and recovery operations. Gov. Jay Nixon activated the National Guard and declared a state of emergency. Schools in the disaster zoned were flattened or severely damaged.