Joplin 1 year later: From devastation comes hope - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Joplin struggling with economic recovery 1 year later

A poodle rocker sits idly on a porch one month following the devastating EF-5 tornado that hit Joplin, MO, on May 22, 2011. (Source: Eliza Smith) A poodle rocker sits idly on a porch one month following the devastating EF-5 tornado that hit Joplin, MO, on May 22, 2011. (Source: Eliza Smith)

JOPLIN, MO (RNN) - One year after a deadly tornado ravaged southwestern Missouri, the town of Joplin is still picking up the pieces and trying to move on.

On May, 22, 2011, a large thunderstorm super cell passed through southern Kansas and Missouri. The city of Joplin took a direct hit from the storm, facing an EF-5 tornado with winds greater than 200 mph.

The aftermath left more than 160 people dead, about 1,000 injured and much of the city destroyed.

The tornado is the deadliest since records were kept in 1950 and is the seventh deadliest in U.S. history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The storm also destroyed about 530 work places that affected more than 5,000 jobs, according to the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce (JACC).

Since the devastating storm, Joplin residents have been working hard to return to what was normal while also bringing the community together in a way unlike it ever was before.

Barbara Smith, a Joplin resident and nurse at Freeman Hospital West, said almost everyone is currently in good spirits about the recovery effort.

"Being around it, everyone is really upbeat to see the progress that has been done," Smith said.

She said many homes and stores have been rebuilt, and even new businesses have sprung up in the city.

Bringing businesses back

The JACC released a list of the status of the businesses affected by the storm and how each business is recovering. While many have reopened their doors or plan on relocating within the city, some also have decided not to rebuild or reopen.

To help businesses cope with the recovery - and to bring in new businesses to Joplin - the program Joplin Tomorrow was founded. It works in conjunction with the JACC Foundation, which takes in contributions.

Joplin Tomorrow has brought many businesses back on their feet following the tornado. The Joplin Globe reported the owner of a dry cleaning store destroyed in the storm was able to get a seven-year loan at a low interest rate from Joplin Tomorrow to help rebuild her business. The store reopened in early February.

The program also helped create new businesses. Heather Grills, owner of Phoenix Fired Art, was able to first open her business with $40,000 from Joplin Tomorrow earlier this year.

"The fund stipulates job creation and what you will contribute to the community. We created two jobs immediately. We'll probably create two to five additional jobs over the next few years," Grills told the Joplin Globe in March.

Keeping the community together

While morale seems to be up during the recovery effort, many people who have lost loved ones in the storm are still struggling to cope. While Gwynn Caruthers, a grant project coordinator at Freeman Hospital West, did not lose any loved ones in the storm, she said she knows many people who are having problems getting by.

"People that are mainly affected are struggling. Nerves are frayed. They're sensitive," Caruthers said.

The city is doing what it can to bring its community together.

On May 17, Joplin hosted a memorial service during Third Thursday, a party held during the third Thursday of every month between March and October in the downtown area.

Members of the community who attended Third Thursday had the opportunity to help build walls that will eventually become part of houses that were destroyed.

Caruthers said the artwork she saw on the streets during the event really stood out to her.

"It was pretty fascinating," she said.

One piece of artwork Caruthers described was a canvas painting of a tornado with 161 hearts painted along the side, each of which represented someone who died in the storm. The top of the tornado was left blank so that people could write messages in it. She said the artist called it "interactive art."

Caruthers also said the atmosphere was "very festive" and was packed with people having a good time.

Del Camp, the vice president of clinical operations at the Ozark Center, recently told The Joplin Globe how people can best cope when there's an anniversary of a disaster approaching.

As the Joplin Globe wrote:

  • Focus on your support system. Surround yourself with those you love and who also love you. It's good to be around people who care about you.
  • Prepare for strong emotions. The anniversary will stir up memories that haven't surfaced, or have been dormant.
  • Remember the basics: If someone isn't sleeping or eating right, they may still be suffering from stress-related symptoms from the tornado. A person's general medical health can be disregarded, as well.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

SIDEBAR: A look back at Joplin


On May, 22, 2011, the city of Joplin took a direct hit from an EF-5 tornado with winds greater than 200 mph. Here's a look back at that historic storm through the eyes of three Missouri residents. More>>

Powered by Frankly