Stunned residents search for loved ones - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Stunned residents search for loved ones

Jeff Lehr, a reporter for the Joplin Globe, said he was upstairs in his home when the storm hit but was able to make his way to a basement closet.  "There was a loud huffing noise, my windows started popping. I had to get downstairs, glass was flying. I opened a closet and pulled myself into it," he told The Associated Press. "Then you could hear everything go. It tore the roof off my house, everybody's house. I came outside and there was nothing left."

An aching helplessness settled over residents, many of whom could only wander the wreckage bereft and wondering about the fate of loved ones.

Justin Gibson, 30, huddled with three relatives outside the tangled debris field of what remained of a Home Depot. He pointed to a black pickup that had been tossed into the store's ruins and said it belonged to his roommate's brother. "He was last seen here with his two little girls," ages 4 and 5, Gibson said.

"We've been trying to get ahold of him since the tornado happened," Gibson said, adding his own house had been leveled.  "It's just gone. Everything in that neighborhood is gone. The high school, the churches, the grocery store. I can't get ahold of my ex-wife to see how my kids are," he said, referring to his three children, ranging in age from 4 months to 5 years. "I don't know the extent of this yet," Gibson said, "but I know I'll have friends and family dead."

Winds from the storm carried debris up to 60 miles away, with medical records, X-rays, insulation and other items falling to the ground in Greene County, said Larry Woods, assistant director of the Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management.

Travel through and around Joplin was difficult, with Interstate 44 shut down and streets clogged with emergency vehicles and the wreckage of buildings.

Emergency management officials rushed heavy equipment to Joplin to help lift debris and clear the way for search and recovery operations. Nixon declared a state of emergency, and President Barack Obama said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was working with state and local agencies.

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