Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Joplin, Missouri braces for more dangerous weather as second onslaught looms

In the aftermath of the deadliest tornado to strike the United States in almost 60 years, hard-hit Joplin, Mo., is bracing for a possible second punch Tuesday.

A single twister in Joplin on Saturday killed at least 116 people. That's the highest toll since 1953, and the figure is expected to rise. Preliminary estimates say the twister was EF4 on the Fujita scale — the second-highest rating assigned to tornadoes based on the damage they cause.

Though the storm has passed, danger was by no means over. Fires from gas leaks burned across Joplin on Tuesday. The smell of ammonia and propane filled the air in some damaged areas. Unstable buildings also posed threats, as whipping winds threaten to finish them off.

And the forecast looks grim: a mix of warm and cold air meeting has raised the possibility of more storms in the area Tuesday night, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., says.

The centre expects a possible large tornado outbreak in the Midwest on Tuesday and bad weather potentially reaching the East Coast by Friday.

"This is a very serious situation brewing," centre director Russell Schneider said. The Storm Prediction Center also issued a high-risk warning before the deadly outbreak in the south in April. (read more)