Monday, September 05, 2016

LOOKING BACK - Tornado in Joplin, Missouri, May 2011

"Tornado-stricken Joplin now thrives, but emotional scars linger" PBS NewsHour 9/2/2016


SUMMARY:  The tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri, in May 2011 was one of the most destructive in U.S. history.  Five years later, the city seems to be thriving -- possibly even better off than it was before.  One key to its success?  Getting residents to stay, says Jane Cage, chair of the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team.  But the emotional trauma from that day still lingers.  Hari Sreenivasan reports.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Storms, hurricanes and natural disasters clearly test the fortitude of any area, as we're seeing this weekend with Hermine, and just recently with the rains and flooding in Louisiana.

We tend to focus on the immediate aftermath and relief, but the devastation can last for years.

We have the story of how one city leveled by a tornado has spent years rebuilding, and in some ways is better and stronger for the future.

The tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri, on May 22, 2011 was one of the most destructive ever in U.S. history; 161 people were killed, 1,000 were injured, and more than 7,000 homes were damaged.

When the “NewsHour” visited four months later, people were still literally picking up the pieces of their lives.

JANE CAGE, Chair, Citizens Advisory Recovery Team:  It is certainly clean, compared with what it used to be.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Jane Cage, a businesswoman who chaired the Citizens Advisory Council to rebuild Joplin, told us back then she was worried people wouldn't come back to the destroyed areas.

JANE CAGE:  In the beginning, I think everyone said, I want to rebuild my house.  And now I think people are faced with the reality that what they wanted, their neighborhood and their friends may not be in that same spot.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Five years later, Cage took us on a tour of the same neighborhood.

JANE CAGE:  I think this is, in some ways, one of the best recovered neighborhoods.  They're nicer houses and larger houses overall.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  She says one of the main things that Joplin got right in the aftermath was encouraging residents to stay.

JANE CAGE:  We concentrated on keeping our population in Joplin, because we saw what happened in other cities that experienced disasters.  And I think one of the first things that we did to make that happen was, our school superintendent made the promise that we would start school on time.

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