Monday, January 18, 2016

Joplin, Missouri Doing Amazingly Well Five Years After Tornado Blew It Away

When a terrible tornado hit Joplin Missouri in May, 2011
it seemed like the city would never recover from scenes
like this. But it did, big time. 
Five years ago this coming May 22, one of the worst tornadoes in American history destroyed a pretty big chunk of Joplin, a city of 50,000 people or so in southwestern Missouri.

The storm killed 161 people. Plus, with about 7.500 homes were damaged or destroyed, and at least 500 businesses were wiped off the face of the Earth.

 It seemed Joplin would never fully recover.

But it did. 

At least pretty much. And rapidly. Five years after the tornado, the city's population is even higher than it was the day before the tornado, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The city has more businesses than before the tornado.  

Joplin's population unsurprisingly dropped by 1.3 percent within a year of the tornado. The Post-Dispatch said many people predicted the population drain would continue indefinitely.

By 2014, three years after the tornado, 90 percent of the homes destroyed in Joplin had been rebuilt, television station KYTV reported that year.

One iconic image after the storm was the wreckage of Mercy Hospital, the major health care center in Joplin. The structure still stood, but its windows were blown out, and its interior turned to mincemeat.

It was destroyed.

Mercy Hospital was rebuilt in another location at a cost of $465 million. It's built to withstand winds of 250 mph. The tornado had winds of "only" 200 mph.

The remains of the Home Depot store in Joplin, Missouri
after the May 22, 2011 tornado. 
Also, a main commercial strip in Joplin, Range Line Road, was wrecked, most of the fast food outlets, big box stores, gas stations, honky tonks and small businesses shredded into unrecognizable pieces.

Now, it's almost totally back in business.

Some companies, like Heartland Pet Food Manufacturing, the parent company of Blue Buffalo dog food were so impressed by Joplin's resolve to come back from the tornado that they located new facilities in Joplin.

Heartland's move added 150 jobs to the Joplin economy.  I normally feed my two dogs Blue Buffalo, and Heartland's move to help Joplin's recovery inspires me to really continue buying Blue Buffalo food for Jackson and Tonks.

Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences is going to build a new campus in Joplin, took, in order to ease a doctor shortage in rural communities near Joplin, says the Post-Dispatch.

There have been bumps in Joplin's recovery, which is inevitable.  Joplin city officials hired a Texas-based developer, Wallace Bajjali, to lead the recovery effort, but that firm pretty much didn't do anything, says the St. Louis Post Dispatch. 

Grand opening of the rebuilt Home Depot in Joplin,
Missouri just seven momths after the tornaod. 
A judge orderd that firm to pay Joplin $1.5 million, after if failed to responded to Joplin's subsequent lawsuit. Wallace Bajjali has gone out of business, and they want the judgement against them set aside.

We'll see.

Still, everything is being replaced. The Arbor Day Foundation has helped replace no fewer than 26,000 trees blown away in the tornado, so as they grow, the city will once again have nice, tree-lined neighborhoods.

I'm sure deep scars remain in Joplin. The families of those 161 who died in the storm must still be feeling the losses acutely.

Joplin is in the heart of tornado alley, and a sense of deep dread must overcome the city every time a tornado watch or severe storm warning is issued.

Yet, the spirit of Joplin is incredibly healthy.

Well played, Joplin!

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