On May 22, 2011, Joplin, MO, (pop. 51,316) was hit by a catastrophic tornado that ripped through the center of town.
The tornado was one of the deadliest on record, killing 161 people. It carved a swath of six miles of wreckage, leaving more than 7,500 homes uninhabitable, 540 businesses affected, and 3 million cubic yards of rubble and debris strewn across the city. It was the single costliest tornado in U.S. history with damages estimated at more than $3 billion.
City Manager Mark Rohr led the recovery effort that rebuilt Joplin.
It began the night of the storm, and, by all accounts, was one of the smoothest and most efficient recovery efforts in recent memory. Rohr coordinated the state, local, and federal responses, along with those of private and nonprofit organizations. He became the public face of the city’s recovery, communicating constantly with citizens, providing encouragement and hope.
Joplin’s recovery has been amazing. By the end of 2012, little more than a year-and-a-half later, 85 percent of the affected businesses have been rebuilt and 76 percent of the destroyed homes have been repaired or issued permits for repair.
Mike Woolston, a city councilman who was serving as mayor when the tornado hit, said the entire recovery progressed without infighting, backbiting, or miscommunication—a testament to Rohr’s leadership.