KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - Less than three hours after a deadly twister on Monday flattened a swath of Moore, Oklahoma, tornado warning sirens sounded in Joplin, Missouri, 215 miles to the northeast.
While no twister touched down, the Oklahoma disaster and the sirens stirred painful memories in Joplin, which on Wednesday observes the second anniversary of one of the most catastrophic tornadoes in American history.
“It brought back a lot of fear, especially since there was a chance that a tornado could hit here,” Sarah Jo Radcliffe, a Joplin resident, said on Tuesday.
The Joplin monster killed 161 people and destroyed about 7,500 homes and 550 businesses in a town of 50,000.
“It makes you want to sit down and cry,” said Wayne Logsdon, who lost his grand nephew, 16-month-old Skyuler Logsdon in the Joplin tornado. “It takes everything out of you again. You know what they are going through.”
Television footage of the massive devastation in Moore “looks hauntingly familiar,” said Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr. The tornado in Joplin sheered houses from their foundations, destroyed a hospital, several schools and scores of businesses.
On Tuesday, U.S. government damage survey teams said the Moore tornado was rated an EF-5, packing winds of more than 200 mph and cutting a swath of destruction 17 miles long and 1.3 miles wide. Moore joined an elite club of communities including Joplin that have withstood the strongest such storms.
The road to recovery is long and lonely, said Logsdon, whose window-tinting business in Joplin was the only structure left standing for several blocks after the tornado.
‘THEY WILL GO AWAY’
“A lot of people will be around for a few weeks helping out but then they will go away and go about their business,” he said. “For a long time, there were no birds, no people, nothing.”
Harlin Stoner, who lost his house in the Joplin tornado and has since moved to Alabama, said people in the Moore destruction zone will have a constant loss of bearings, even in their own neighborhood. Familiar places are gone, he said.
“You don’t know where you are, there are no markers left,” Stoner said. “It’s a horrible feeling.”
Mark Norton, who lost his 18-year-old son, Will Norton, in the Joplin tornado, said people in Moore are probably doing a lot of second-guessing. The Nortons were two blocks from home in their SUV when the twister struck, sucking Will out of his seat belt from the sunroof as he returned from high school graduation ceremonies.
Mark Norton said he has thought many times that if they had been just a minute earlier in driving to the house, Will might be alive. People in Moore may be wishing they would have taken their kids from school or that the twister hit slightly later, when school was out, he said.
Joplin plans to observe the second anniversary of its tornado late Wednesday afternoon in a city park with a picnic and some recognition of people and groups who have helped in the recovery. Moore will not be far from their thoughts, Rohr said.
Editing by Cynthia Osterman