Missouri NASCAR Driver Jamie McMurray Praying for Hometown
JOPLIN (AP) -- Watching the "devastation and destruction" caused by Sunday's deadly tornado that hit Joplin, Mo., has affected one NASCAR driver in particular.
"My heart goes out to all the people that have been affected by the devastating Missouri tornado... especially in my hometown of Joplin," Sprint Cup racer Jamie McMurray said in a statement Monday. "It is difficult to put into words, the emotions I have when I see the devastation and destruction that was caused by this storm. My thoughts and prayers are extended to all the people who are dealing with so much loss.
"I would also like to thank all those that have reached out to me to express their concerns for my family. Although I don't personally have any family in Joplin any longer, there are still many people there that need our support and prayers."
Search and rescue operations were under way Monday as 116 people were confirmed dead after Joplin took a direct hit from what Gov. Jay Nixon described as "the most deadly tornado ever to hit the state."
The official death toll was predicted to climb, with people still trapped inside damaged buildings after an estimated 2,000 structures were wiped out.
Joplin, about 150 miles south of Kansas City, was the worst affected by a series of storms that swept through the Midwest on Sunday, with officials reporting that 25-35 percent of the city suffered significant damage.
The hunt for victims and survivors continued through the night and into Monday morning, reinforced by the Missouri National Guard and neighboring states, as officials worked through the debris of ruined buildings and upturned vehicles strewn across flattened neighborhoods.
But thunderstorms packing heavy rain and hail began to lash the city Monday, and more storms were expected to barrel the region throughout the week. "It's definitely not making the process any easier," National Weather Service Meteorologist Doug Cramer told the Springfield News-Leader as he forecast that Joplin could see wind speeds up to 60 mph.
Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr said the emergency effort of 410 personnel from 40 agencies would "continue through the next couple of days at least," with crews preparing to go door-to-door to account for the public as shelters filled up with those whose homes were destroyed by the storm.
The Joplin twister was one of 68 reported tornadoes across the Midwest over the weekend, the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center said. At least one person was killed in Minneapolis and another was killed in Reading, Kan.