People walk a devastated street in Joplin, Missouri (map), on Sunday, hours after a tornado killed at least 116 people, as of Monday afternoon, and left the town in ruins.
The tornado tore a path roughly a mile (1.6 kilometers) wide and six miles (9.6 kilometers) long, destroying a hospital, flattening a school, and slamming cars into buildings, the Associated Press reported.
"You see pictures of World War II, the devastation and all that with the bombing. That's really what it looked like," Joplin resident and high school principal Kerry Sachetta told the AP.
The especially violent twister may have been an F5 tornado on the Fujita scale, which ranks tornadoes based on wind speed and damage potential, according to Jeff Masters, meteorological director for the Weather Underground website.
An F4 tornado packs winds from 207 to 260 miles (333 to 418 kilometers) an hour, while an F5 storm's gusts rage from 261 to 318 miles (420 to 511 kilometers) an hour.
ON TV: Witness: Tornado Swarm 2011 airs Sunday, May 29, 9 p.m. ET/PT >>
—With reporting by Willie Drye