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Community Hazard: Tornado in Joplin Missouri Case Study

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Updated: Jun 10th, 2019


Community hazard analysis is essential for mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery planning. In the process of creating a concrete disaster analysis, this paper identifies the tornado that occurred in the year 2011 in Joplin, Missouri. Besides, the paper determines the social and economic costs, effects, community response, and the extent of sociological ramifications.

The treatise reviews major anthropogenic and natural hazards as a result of the Joplin tornado which wreaked havoc and cause death in hundreds. Flash Flood and thunder as a result of this disaster led to power outages and communication network dysfunction.

The 2011 Joplin Tornado

Exact Nature of the Disaster

This tornado was a natural disaster that occurred on 22nd May, 2011 in the city of Joplin, Missouri. The tornado struck the city in the afternoon covering a width of nearly one and a half kilometers. The tornado became strong within a very short time as it moved through Joplin towards the eastern side of the city.

The tornado touched down at the 32nd Street at an intensity of EF0 and quickly gained speed to EF5. It snapped trees and destroyed every structure on its path such as 300 pound concrete blocks, steel structures, homes, cars, trees, and electric poles (American Red Cross, 2015). The EF5-multiple tornado resulted in the death of one fifty eight people and injured more than a thousand residents. Though the tornado lasted for only a short period, the damages were intense due to its high intensity and heavy rainfall that accompanied it.

The tornado lifted at 23.12 UTC after an hour of ravaging Joplin. At the end of this natural disaster, “6,954 homes were destroyed, 359 homes had major damage and 516 homes had minor damage, 158 people were killed, and 1,150 others were injured along the path” (American Red Cross, 2015, p. 13). A report released by Joplin’s American Red Cross branch indicated that nearly 25% of city was obliterated. The local power and communication networks were also destroyed (Leer, 2013).

Transport system and utility disruption hazards were witnessed due to impact of natural hazard of the tornado in the form of storms and heavy downpour. These disruptions posed major challenges on operations within and without the city. Besides, Hazmat incidents such as harmful material releases in the form of ammonia gas, after the tornado, affected drainage and air quality within the city and its surrounding since it destroyed many gas, sewage, and water pipes within the city of Joplin.

Location of the Joplin Tornado

The 2011 tornado touched down at Joplin in Missouri. The city is located north of Newton County and south of Jasper County within Missouri. The tornado swept across the city from the western side towards the eastern direction, destroying everything on its path. Nearly 8,000 building in Joplin were destroyed by the tornado which lasted for more than an hour within the city.

The EF5 tornado was accompanied by heavy rainfall and more than 15,000 cars were destroyed. At the end of the tornado, it is estimated that more than 25% of the city was destroyed by the strong winds and heavy downpour. The tornado destroyed most of the public infrastructure along its path such as schools, hospital, churches, and roads. The local administration had to reconstruct almost 40% of the city when the situation was finally settled (Leer, 2013).

Just like in any other developed city, the Joplin tornado posed an immediate and high magnitude challenge to the residents. These threats included malevolent strong winds, flying debris, and heavy downpour triggered to inflict casualties and damage to property. Besides, the tornado intimidated behavioral changes which were bad for business and socialization since some residents migrated as a result of fear and heavy economic loses.

Community response

Community response to the hazards as a result of Joplin tornado was dependent of several factors interacting simultaneously at macro and micro level to create favorable conditions for life, investment, and movement after its occurrence. The responses were organized to address factors such as potential casualties, economic losses, and infrastructure damages.

There was variance in magnitude of response to each hazard as a result of the tornado. Thus, the response adopted the relative risk analysis which approximated risk level of the aftermath of each hazard (Haddow, Bullock, & Coppola, 2011). Indicated below is a refined mitigation plan which summarizes the response that was adopted in Joplin to respond to the aftermath of the tornado.

Types of damages Response
Damaged houses The government and other agencies provided temporary shelter in the form of tents for those who lost their homes. The government also offered from transport to those who wished to be relocated to disaster shelters within Missouri that were not affected by the tornado.
Floods The stakeholders in the Joplin community provided search and rescue facilities and personnel to comb the entire region affected by the tornado to locate survivors. The survivors were rushed to different hospitals around Missouri. The dead were also retrieved from the rubbles and transported to morgues around the city.
Cut communication and power The government and the local Red Cross branch created a disaster response information center to aid the search and rescue efforts. The center also offered first aid services to survivors besides helping them to reunite with their families. The center provided basic needs to survivors such as food, clothing, and counseling services.
Damaged infrastructure The government dispatched a contingent of police units, voluntary rescuers, and equipment to clear the rubble within the city. The team worked for 24 hours each day for almost 30 days and most of the debris was cleared. The local council and other stakeholders constructed temporary shelters and roads to aid in reaching and serving the survivors of the tornado storm. The rescue teams were organized into five units with dogs and heavy equipment to expedite the search and rescue efforts.
Transportation The governor created a rapid transport unit to serve the affected area. The transport unit consisted of 25 ambulances, several buses, and 75 marines to provide logistical support.
Public awareness and communication The local authority established a Social Media Emergency Management Unit to work with the local media houses to widely share any information about survivors and developing stories as the rescue process progressed through the social media. Series of Facebook groups, and Twitter accounts were created to mobile resources from the public to aid in the search, rescue, reconstruction, and medical costs.
Economic losses The housing, health, and property compensation plan was rolled out three months after the disaster to support the survivors in reconstructing their lives. The insurance compensation amounted to $2.3 billion.

From the above table, emergency response in Joplin City was directed towards preparedness against natural hazards. Each hazard was assigned to a quadrant with predetermined response strategies and ‘follow-ups’ upon implementation. Specifically, special attention was directed towards search and rescue efforts since many households were affected by the tornado. Besides, attention was directed towards response to impact of the tornado on housing, transport, and electricity supply.

Factually, the aftermath of this natural disaster affected more that 40% of the city population who could not afford tornado proof housing (Leer, 2013). Therefore, resources were preserved and directed towards addressing the impacts of these disasters especially on coping and survival technique. In mitigating a response strategy, attention was directed towards marking of hot spots and erecting weather tracking devises to give alerts for early evacuation and preparedness in response in the future.

Among the strategic response to the disaster included partnership with the locals in awareness campaigns on survival and understanding natural disasters.

Besides, additional safety and first aid centers have been constructed as hiding point and supplies delivery locations for disaster stricken population (Pine, 2008). Moreover, cooperation with the media has proven instrumental in creating awareness on magnitude and effects of tornadoes on economic, social, and health sectors in order to prepare Joplin residents psychologically for unprecedented losses.

Extent Sociological Ramifications

The sociological consequences of the Joplin tornado were loss of lives, destabilization of families, downward mobility as a result of loss of property, and increased health related challenges such as sickness and stress. From the government data, one hundred and sixty one people died as a result of direct or indirect impact of the tornado.

This translates to families losing their loved ones. Since the tornado resulted in relocation and temporary disappearance of some victims, many families were temporary separated and had to live with the fear of the unknown for their loved ones. Since the tornado resulted in destruction of property, many families experienced downward mobility due to loss of income generating activities.

The aftermath of the Joplin tornado was characterized by increased health concerns due to direct and indirect injuries from flying debris. More than 1,000 residents were injured and rushed to the hospital.

The hospital bills were constraint to families of these victims. In addition, many victims had to accept the facts that property was destroyed, lives lost, and family income affected by the Joplin tornado. These occurrences are known to increase stress and depression limits for the victims struggling to recover from the effects of the Joplin tornado (Ronoa & Johnston, 2010).


Conclusively, emergency response planning reviews major anthropogenic and natural hazards within the boundaries of occurrence predictability and magnitude of impact. Generally, hazards such as floods, storms, disruption of transport and utility systems occurred following the disastrous Joplin tornado in the year 2011.

The responses adopted were very effective towards minimizing the economic and social impacts of the tornado on the residents of Joplin, Missouri. The local community was able to mobile resources through the social media to ensure that the disaster was contained within a month. Despite the heavy losses as a result of the Joplin tornado, the local authority was able to develop different effective disaster management strategies such as supplying free food aid, shelter, and other basic amenities to the victims.


American Red Cross. (2015). Joplin tornado. Retrieved from

Haddow, G., Bullock, J., & Coppola, D. (2011). Introduction to emergency management. Burlington: Elsevier, Inc.

Leer, K. (2013). Storm mergers and their role in tornado genesis during the 2011 Joplin storm. Chicago, Ch: University of Illinois.

Pine, J. (2008). Natural hazards analysis: reducing the impact of disasters. Michigan: Auerbach Publications.

Ronoa, K., & Johnston, D. (2010). Promoting community resilience in disasters: The role for schools, youths and families. New York, NY: Springer Publishing.

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"Community Hazard: Tornado in Joplin Missouri." IvyPanda, 10 June 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/community-hazard-tornado-in-joplin-missouri/.

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IvyPanda. "Community Hazard: Tornado in Joplin Missouri." June 10, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/community-hazard-tornado-in-joplin-missouri/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Community Hazard: Tornado in Joplin Missouri." June 10, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/community-hazard-tornado-in-joplin-missouri/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Community Hazard: Tornado in Joplin Missouri'. 10 June.

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