Words cannot fully describe the damage that the EF-5 tornado inflicted on Joplin, but pictures of the destruction better convey the wreckage and why Joplin continues to need help.
While at the Joplin United Tornado Victims Benefit Music Festival at Downstream Casino Resort, I had the pleasure of meeting Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims. Sims told me that his Billy Sims Barbecue restaurant in Joplin had not been destroyed by the devastating tornado that ripped through the city on May 22. He also suggested that I take a drive on Range Line Road and see the devastation for myself. I took his advice.
Elsewhere I have described what I saw as resembling a scorched-Earth scene from a Terminator movie. Two weeks after the EF-5 tornado struck Joplin, there is still devastation as far as the eye can see. Trees with bark sheared off. Piles of debris with twisted metal, bricks, wood, pipes, car parts, signs, insulation and other unidentifiable rubble sticking out. Battered and squashed automobiles are spread across the landscape.
Devastation along S. Range Line Road. Joplin, Mo. June 5, 2011
As I drove north on S. Range Line Road, I saw a building on the east side of the road. I could not identify what it used to be and it seemed to draw me to it. So, I parked my vehicle in a spot in the building's parking lot that was free of debris and walked both around, and inside, the building.
Inside the devastated IHOP restaurant on S. Range Line Road. Joplin, Mo. June 5, 2011
Eventually I was able to identify the building as a former International House of Pancakes restaurant. I continued walking around the area of S. Range Line Road and E. 20th Street where I saw devastation in every direction. I photographed the remains of a number of businesses.
Inside unidentifiable former restaurant on S. Range Line Road. Joplin, Mo. June 5, 2011
The odors emanating from the former restaurants can best be described as stench. After the tornado, Joplin received large amounts of rainfall and is now experiencing temperatures in the upper- eighties and nineties.
Yet, efforts are underway to clean-up the debris and nonprofits and volunteers are helping the City of Joplin and its residents to clean-up the city and take care of the victims.
Late in the evening I saw a tow-truck removing one of the damaged trucks from the shopping center where Academy Sports+Outdoors was located.
Battered truck being hauled away from shopping center at 20th and S. Range Line Road. Joplin, Mo. June 5, 2011
I also had the pleasure of meeting volunteers from one of the nonprofits that came in to help Joplin. Relief Spark has a base camp at E. 20th Street and S. Range Line Road. Relief Spark updates visitors to its Facebook page on current needs, volunteer opportunities, and much more.
Relief Spark base camp at 20th and S. Range Line Road. Joplin, Mo. June 5, 2011
Two weeks after the tornado so much remains to be done in Joplin, Missouri. But, should you go there, you will see American flags flying along S. Range Line Road and meet people determined to rebuild their lives, homes, and businesses. Volunteers are desperately needed.