The Monday tornado that leveled a 20-mile stretch south of Oklahoma City, with winds exceeding 200 miles per hour, brings back harrowing memories of the deadly tornado that ripped apart Joplin, Missouri, exactly two years ago Wednesday.
Whenever a tornado devastates a community, there are certain common experiences. The destruction is swift and unequivocal. Any sense of normalcy is lost in the blink of an eye. And the rebuilding process is long and painful.
In Joplin, where I photographed the tornado's aftermath, the road to rebuilding was rife with obstacles, heartache, and daily reminders of what was lost. That's likely to be the case in Moore, Oklahoma, the area hardest hit by the tornado, which claimed at least 24 lives. (Related: "Your Pictures of Oklahoma Tornado")
The tornado that devastated Joplin carved a path of destruction a mile wide and 22 miles long and, like the twister that struck Moore, was an EF-5, the most powerful classification for such storms.
The Joplin tornado destroyed nearly a third of the town, affecting roughly 8,000 structures, including homes, churches, schools, and businesses. The insurance payouts were expected to top $2.2 billion, the largest in Missouri history. It was the seventh deadliest tornado in United States history, claiming 162 lives. (Read: "5 Tornado Myths Busted")
All the insurance money that Steve and Pat Hammonds (above) received after the Joplin tornado went toward a contract for a new home to be constructed on their existing housing lot. But city rezoning rules, meant to safeguard against future extreme weather events, halted construction. (Watch: "The Oklahoma Tornado From Space")
Living off Social Security, disability, and unemployment checks, the couple was unable to buy a new lot until a local charity stepped in. They lived in a small travel trailer on their old lot through the winter months as they waited for a new home to be built.