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Preliminary report: First May on record with no EF-3 or stronger tornadoes

(KSNF/KODE) – The Storm Prediction Center has released some surprising new statistics in its May 2021 severe weather synopsis.

The most “remarkable” statistic shows the month was the first May on record with no tornadoes that were rated EF-3 or stronger.

That’s what preliminary data is showing, at least.

Record keeping began in 1950, so this is the first May since then, across the nation, that tornadoes were on the low-end of the Enhanced Fujita scale.

However, the month saw a quantity of tornadoes.

May 2021 had 289 tornadoes across the nation, which is slightly higher than the 2011-2020 yearly average of 272.

The full report can be found on the Storm Prediction Center‘s social media.

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'Take cover now!' – The three words that rang out over the city of Joplin on May 22, 2011

JOPLIN, Mo. (KSNF) – “Take cover now!” They are the words that rang out through the city of Joplin ten years ago.

We want to warn you, that some of this video could be sensitive for some viewers.

The voice on the television screen urges, “Take shelter now. It looks like this is a pretty powerful tornado.”

Former KSN weather forecaster Jeremiah Cook says, “I’ll never forget that night. You know I’ve lived here for 30 years and I’ve never seen something like that. When I see the video, there’s this sinking feeling.”

Anyone watching the television on May 22, 2011 remembers the chilling commands: “I am telling you to take cover, take cover right now. We do have a tornado on the ground. This is a tornado. This is a very dangerous situation.”

Cook recalls, “Oh my God, that’s how close I came. At first, I didn’t realize it was a tornado. I’ve seen plenty of videos of tornadoes, having gone to school, having worked in the business for as long as I had, I had seen videos of tornadoes. But it was one of those moments where, things were out of context. You know it’s easy to go back now and look and say yes that’s a tornado that was on the ground, but at the moment, I think it caught us all by surprise.”

Cook continues, “There was that what in the world is this that we’re looking at thing where you know, you don’t expect the tower cam to just come up and there’s the tornado and we transitioned into that okay, now we get everybody to take it seriously, we get people to take cover to take shelter. I think we all defaulted to it is our job to save as many people as we can. I wanted to make sure that I was there doing that for whoever needed it done for them at the moment.”

At that moment, someone he knew well needed it. KSN producer Marian Kelly was at home watching Jeremiah on TV.

“And Caitlin and Jeremiah were saying take cover now,” Kelly says.

She says it was the urgency in their voice that made her get into that crawl space.

“I could feel the air being sucked out of that crawlspace. And I thought this is how I’m going to die. And I was frankly a little surprised when it got over with and I was still alive,” Kelly says.

When asked if she credits people like Jeremiah with saving her life, she says, “Absolutely, In fact, I told them, I told Jeremiah and I told Caitlyn, I said you all saved my life. I would not have taken cover if you hadn’t used those exact words.”

“Personally, I think we did our jobs, I think we did what we were put here to do,” says Cook.

But the effects of that day – May 22nd, 2011 – still linger for both of them.

“I can’t look at it because, because it’s never not fresh,” says Kelly.

Cook says, “My wife gets on to me. And because every year around the tornado we talk about it and she’ll tell me you did everything you could you did everything you could. And I’ll tell her I can come up with 160 reasons we didn’t. When I was still predicting the weather I felt like I had to put a little more effort in every forecast I had to I had to try harder to be more on point with it. Because of that.”

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Disaster preparedness the focus of discussion at Joplin event

JOPLIN, Mo. (KODE) – Officials with Ozark Center and Show-Me Hope put the focus on emergency preparedness tonight in Joplin.

“Ready in Three” is a training course involving a three-step program.

It recommends having a plan of action for you and your family, as well as an emergency kit consisting of sturdy shoes, a hard hat, silver blanket and personal hygiene items.

Folks are also urged to have a battery powered radio so they can listen for important information.
Training instructors say preparing now can help reduce stress before, during and after an emergency.

“What we find is that being prepared brings peace of mind. If you’re prepared for any disaster — it can be a flood, a tornado, it can be a fire, an ice storm, power outage, it can be a terrorist event or a mass shooting — It doesn’t necessarily have to be a (natural) disaster. So, we just say emergency preparedness brings peace of mind,” says Debbie Fitzgerald, Director of Crisis Services at Ozark Center.

Fitzgerald says it’s also important for families to conduct periodic emergency drills with their children at home.

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The story of hope and the cross that stood after the Joplin tornado

JOPLIN, Mo. (KODE) — The 2011 Joplin tornado flattened houses, tore through businesses and tossed around countless cars and trees.

Then, there were the churches including more than two dozen in the path of the storm. That includes St. Mary’s Catholic Church, school, and the cross that still stands today.

“We heard through the grapevine the school and the church had really taken a hit but when we walked up there and saw the total devastation,” recalls Margie Black, St. Mary’s Catholic Church Parishioner.

That happened on top of tornado damage to Black’s own home. She says, “It was very overwhelming.”

She was one of many members of St. Mary’s who lost their church home.

Patty Wheeler, St. Mary’s Parish Council, says, “It was still so overwhelming to see the destruction.”
Decades of Sunday Masses, prayer vigils, and choir practice reduced to piles of debris.

Wheeler says it was a tough thing to see while remembering her daughter’s wedding and dropping off grandkids for school.

“Just the things that we did as a parish family. At that moment walking through and just seeing that debris, kind of put a thought in your head is will it ever come back together again. Is this truly the end?” says Wheeler.

It was a beginning.

Cleaning up the wreckage of the church and school, something they didn’t have to do on their own.

“I think the greatest blessing that came out of the tornado was the number of people from all around the world, that came to help,” Wheeler says.

The site at 25th and Moffet was one in a long list of churches damaged or destroyed by the storm.

“And, in that time, I really thought we would rebuild there,” says Wheeler.

But many changes were in store; The church address would move to 32nd and Central City Road.

Construction of a new campus wouldn’t wrap up for more than three years.

Wheeler says, “As we saw other churches beginning to open up it’s like, well, ‘Why not us?’ you know? But I’m glad we took the time to do the research and build this beautiful, beautiful church that we have now.”

Wheeler points out that what’s even more important is still intact ten years later.

She says, “But what makes that building is the people that are inside of it. And those, the majority of those people stayed together we came back together, and we’re still together.”

She still has a piece of the church wood she saved.

“I mean it’s like saving something of your mom or your dad’s,” says Wheeler.

Meanwhile, for Black, it’s a statue of Mary that rode out the storm.

“It was a moment of hope – something that gave me some grace in spite of this brokenness to find this statue completely intact; it’s very special to us,” she says.

The St. Mary’s cross is still at the old church site, left in place in the hopes it would be part of the healing process.

It’s still a focus for church members, who are working on plan to further develop the site.