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Joplin tornado facts and developments

Joplin tornado facts and developments

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The tornado Sunday in Joplin was an EF5, the National Weather Service said Tuesday, the highest rating given to twisters. The rating is assigned based on the damage storms cause. The weather service also announced that the tornado appeared to be a rare "multivortex" twister. Multivortex tornadoes contain two or more small and intense subvortices that orbit the center of the larger tornado circulation. Multivortex tornadoes have been seen in massive storms.

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The tornado sirens in Joplin were tested while the sun was shining Tuesday morning, and two were not functioning. The test was ordered because of the chance of severe weather Tuesday night. The sirens that were out were replaced with portable sirens, and generators were installed at each of the sirens operating on battery power because of electrical outages to make sure the system was ready.

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Ten residents and a staff member of the Greenbriar nursing home were killed when the building was totally demolished by the storm. The home had 89 residents. One is unaccounted for, but a company official said he hoped that person had been relocated to another home. A staff member suffered 35 broken bones. Residents of Greenbriar and another damaged home, Meadows Care Center, have been taken to facilities in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

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Both of Missouri's U.S. senators viewed the devastation Tuesday. "You get a sense of devastation through pictures, but in person the scope is overwhelming," U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said in a statement. U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, who represented the city in Congress for 14 years, said in a statement after his visit: "I've never seen anything like it."

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Federal officials declared a public health emergency for Missouri, allowing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to waive certain requirements of federal and state health insurance programs including Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program. Missouri hospitals will be allowed to take in more patients than they are licensed for, and patients can stay longer without penalty.

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A federal disaster mortuary operations team has been sent to Missouri to help coroners and medical examiners and operate a portable morgue. The team will help identify bodies and notify families.

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Three companies have donated $1 million each to relief efforts. TAMKO Building Products Inc. presented a $1 million check Tuesday morning to the Greater Ozarks Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Joplin Globe reported. Walmart and the Home Depot, whose stores were leveled, each pledged $1 million for relief efforts. Steve Holmes, a Home Depot spokesman, confirmed that one employee died in the store during the storm. The company was leaving it up to local authorities to release the number of customers who died.

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Missouri's NFL teams are pitching in to help victims of recent tornadoes. The St. Louis Rams plan to get involved with the relief effort after NFL meetings in Indianapolis. The Rams coaching staff helped in cleanup efforts in St. Louis County from a tornado last month. The Kansas City Chiefs are collecting bottled water and contributing $35,000 to assist victims in Reading, Kan., and Joplin.

— Staff reporters Blythe Bernhard, Kavita Kumar and Jake Wagman, along with The Associated Press and Joplin Globe, contributed to this report.

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