It's been an incredibly destructive tornado season in 2011, if you can pardon the understatement. Even after over 300 people were killed by tornado strikes in Alabama, the strike in Joplin, Missouri further emphasized just how devastating these storms can be. While the Joplin disaster did not take as many lives as the Alabama strikes, it's doubtful there's any solace in that fact for Joplin residents.
The death toll in Joplin reached over 100 people, and while there have been some rather unfortunate responses from misguided politicians, by and large, reaction has been swift and heartfelt. There's also a great deal of data-mining going on, as people flock to the Internet looking for whatever information they can find.
On Google Maps, there's a visualization of the path the tornado took while ripping Joplin apart. There's also a map showing the various business and properties that were struck, both of which can be embedded.
The tornado's path:
View Joplin, MO Tornado in a larger map
View May 22, 2011 - Joplin tornado strike in a larger map
In the path map, the path is designated by fuchsia line, while the starting point is marked in red and the dissipation point marked in green. The placemarks indicate businesses and neighborhoods. The information contained here paints a disturbing, but educational video concerning the destructive power of tornadoes, as if the Alabama and Joplin aftermaths didn't do so already.
A hat-tip to the Ozark Storms blog for pointing the path map out.
There's also a YouTube video of the tornado's storm cell formation, as seen from space. If it wasn't so deadly, it would be beautiful:
Another video shows the devastation from the eyes of a helicopter. Words cannot do the scenes justice:
In case you need additional visual evidence of the mass destruction, here's the before and after picture that's blowing up on BuzzFeed:
After seeing these images, it almost breaks my heart to read about the federal government's bickering over disaster funds, something the Kansas City Star detailed quite clearly:
This brings us to a rather shameful debate now taking place in, of course, Congress.
To its credit, a key House panel has approved an additional $1 billion in federal relief money to respond to a spring of natural disasters. But as soon as cries for help were heard, lawmakers pounced on the chance to make partisan points.
House Republicans are starting to demand that disaster relief funds be balanced with cuts in other areas of federal spending, essentially using human tragedy to advance their political agenda.
Thankfully, the scores of volunteers who've responded to the destruction caused by these tornado strikes don't share the same kind of motivations.