Looking back to Joplin, Mo. one year after the EF-5 tornado tore through the city May 22, 2011

JOPLIN, Mo. - On May 22, 2011, 160 people were killed after the massive EF-5 tornado ripped through Joplin, Mo.

Some say more could have died.

The National Weather Service issued its warning 20 minutes before the it hit, but not all of the signs of a tornado were there.

"My husband kept going, 'my God it's getting black,'" said Barbara Roush, survivor. "You know the front door was open and I'm sitting in my recliner and I thought 'we're going to have a hail storm'."

But there was no hail with this storm and 25 percent of Joplin was about to be destroyed.

Lesson #1 - Take Cover Immediately

Barbara and her husband, Wilbur, said taking cover in a closet is what saved their lives. When they emerged from their safe place, they weren't prepared for what they saw.

"The first time I went out on the porch I went, 'My God where's St. Johns?' You could see things flying.  Curtains and this and that. Somebody came up the street and said, 'Barbara it's gone'. I went, 'My God, they had people in there!'" said Barbara.

The hospital getting hit leads us to the second lesson.

Lesson #2 - Have a Safety Plan

Six people were killed inside the hospital, but the early warnings and the hospital's severe weather planning saved many more lives.

Lesson #3 - Own a Weather Radio

Jane and Melvin McDowell had no idea the massive tornado was coming. And to make matters worse, they weren't watching TV nor did they have a weather radio.

"My daughter called. She said, 'Get to the basement, there's one coming right at you mom!'" said Jane.

One block away, homes were swept off their foundations. Jane says that phone call likely saved their lives.

Lesson #4 - Take Cover Wherever You Can

At Blendville Christian Church, Minister Virgel Eubanks said the basement is what saved 35 of his members who were having a small gathering as the storm hit.

"I had always heard about (how) a tornado sounds like a freight train. I could hear it right up to the left of me and it was louder than any train you could ever imagine," said Virgel.

He never made it to the basement though.

"I was running this way to head for the basement," said Virgel. "Three other guys were here. As we came about to here, the glass exploded and everything started falling down. I jumped inside the kitchen door at that time there was a refrigerator sitting here and I just started squatting down behind it."

Lesson #5 - Shelters and Safe Rooms Work

Dana Hughey and Marillyn Vanwinkle were in the church basement that night.

They laugh now about how Dana nearly choked Marillyn as she ducked for cover.

"We were very fortunate because we were in a basement and not everyone has a basement but I think the safe rooms are a real good thing," said Dana.

She's right.

Joplin's tornado claimed many lives, but there were many survivors. 

Learning the lessons from that night could save you and your family when the next storm carves a path through Green Country.

You can also stay informed with our help.

Sign up for email alerts from KJRH.com when severe weather watches and warnings are issued by the National Weather Service. All you do is pick the county or counties you want be notified about and when an alert is issued, you'll get an email in your inbox.

You can also download our Interactive Weather Center app for iPhone and iPad. It will keep you on top of the storm so that you have the information you need to stay safe. Just ask Grove resident Cheno Kennedy.

She was in Branson when a tornado came through the popular tourist destination, and she credits our app for keeping her safe.

Download the iPad version here, http://bit.ly/qEU8cz.
Download the iPhone version here, http://bit.ly/oVm3py.

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