Joplin Tornado Pulverizes City; Survivors Return to Survey Damage – PHOTOS

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  • joplin tornado st. john's regional medical center
    (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.
  • Joplin tornado ryan harper
    (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.
  • joplin tornado woman survivor
    (Photo:Reuters/Eric Thayer)
    A woman looks for survivors amidst the rubble after a devastating tornado hit Joplin, Missouri, May 23, 2011. At least 116 people have died in a monster tornado that left a path of destruction nearly a mile wide through the heart of of the city and directly hit the small Midwestern city's main hospital.
  • joplin tornado gloomy sky
    (Photo: Reuters/Eric Thayer)
    A mud-covered road is seen in a destroyed neighborhood after a devastating tornado hit Joplin, Missouri, May 23, 2011. At least 116 people have died in a monster tornado that left a path of destruction nearly a mile wide through the heart of of the city and directly hit the small Midwestern city's main hospital.
  • joplin tornado volunteers
    (Photo: Reuters/Eric Thayer)
    Volunteers look for survivors in the rubble of a home after a devastating tornado hit Joplin, Missouri, May 23, 2011. At least 116 people have died in a monster tornado that left a path of destruction nearly a mile wide through the heart of of the city and directly hit the small Midwestern city's main hospital.
  • joplin tornado street sign
    (Photo: Reuters/Eric Thayer)
    A street sign is seen on the ground after a devastating tornado hit Joplin, Missouri, May 23, 2011. At least 116 people have died in a monster tornado that left a path of destruction nearly a mile wide through the heart of of the city and directly hit the small Midwestern city's main hospital.
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By Jennifer Riley, Christian Post Reporter
May 24, 2011|8:41 am

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.'"

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