Dozens reported killed in Missouri tornado

Times staff and wire reports

A major tornado touched down Sunday in Joplin, Mo., causing significant damage and multiple fatalities, according to the Associated Press and local news reports.

A Federal Emergency Management Agency official told the Springfield News-Leader that at least 24 fatalities had been confirmed in Joplin and an unknown number of people were injured.

Among the structures hit by the tornado was St. John’s Hospital, although the extent of damages or injuries were not immediately known. The Joplin Globe reported catastrophic damage to Joplin High School, as well as major damage to an elementary and middle school in town.


Photos: Tornadoes sweep the Midwest

The Joplin tornado struck amid severe weather throughout much of the region, where numerous tornado watches remain in effect.

At least one person was killed in Minneapolis when a tornado hit there earlier Sunday.

In Joplin, a city of about 50,000 located in the southwest corner of the state, damage was widespread across the south side.

Phone communications in and out of the city were largely cut off.

The Springfield News-Leader, located about 75 miles east of Joplin, reported that National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Griffin confirmed Joplin has suffered “a direct hit” in the center of town.

Griffin told the newspaper there were no immediate plans to send officials to inspect the damage because the entire area remained under a severe weather watch.

The storm was part of a series that battered the Midwest on Sunday night. Tornado warnings and watches were posted from Texas to Michigan.

In Minneapolis, city spokeswoman Sara Dietrich said the death was confirmed by the Hennepin County medical examiner. She had no other immediate details. Only two of the 29 people injured there were hurt critically.

In Wisconsin, a powerful storm caused significant damage in La Crosse, tearing roofs from homes and sending emergency responders to search damaged buildings for anyone trapped inside, officials said. La Crosse County sheriff’s dispatcher Tim Vogel described the damage as “significant” but told The Associated Press there were no immediate reports of serious injuries.

Those storms followed a tornado Saturday night that swept through a small eastern Kansas town, killing one person and destroying at least 20 homes, as severe thunderstorms pelted the region with hail that some residents described as the size of baseballs, authorities said Sunday.

Kansas Division of Emergency Management spokeswoman Sharon Watson identified the victim as Don Chesmore, 53, of Reading, who was in a mobile home that flipped. He was taken to a hospital in Emporia, where he was pronounced dead.

Photos: Tornadoes sweep the Midwest