View of a tornado, accompanied by a lightning flash.
The Joplin, Mo., tornado whipped winds in excess of 200 mph. (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/Tim Lindenbaum/Flickr)

The terrifying tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo., on May 22 killed at least 132 people and set countless more lives adrift as homes and businesses were ripped to shreds. Amid the chaos, USA Today reports that a curious record was set. According to a storm researcher from Purdue University, a register receipt from Joplin Tire Center turned up 525 miles away on a front porch in north-central Indiana. Reportedly, that’s the longest distance on record that a single object has been carried by a tornado.

Blowing away the previous record

Dr. Ernest Agee, a professor of earth and atmospheric services, told reporters that the Joplin tornado receipt beat the previous record of a canceled check that was carried 210 miles by the 1915 tornado in Great Bend, Kan.

“This paper traveled more than twice as far,” remarked Agee.

The Joplin Tire Center receipt, which was dated May 13, landed in Royal Center, Ind., which is 45 miles away from the home of Purdue University, West Lafayette. It landed on the doorstep of Tia Fritz, who immediately contacted the university after realizing what she had found. Agee and other tornado experts estimate that the Joplin receipt was carried by the jet stream for at least 12 1/2 hours, on winds that exceeded 200 mph. The tornado registered EF-5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, indicating that it caused maximum damage.

“This paper’s journey is a testament to the strength of the EF-5 that struck Joplin and what that city went through,” said Agree.

The deadliest tornado to hit US in 65 years

Accompanied by heavy winds and rain, the Joplin tornado was just a taste of a massive storm front spawned by La Niña weather patterns that hit the lower Midwestern U.S. National Weather Service. Meteorologists noted that the risk of tornadoes had continued throughout the week following the May 22 Joplin catastrophe.

Massive insurance claims

The Joplin tornado joins recent U.S. natural disasters like the Mississippi river flooding on insurance company ledgers. Annually, U.S. tornadoes cost insurers $2 billion to $4 billion, but this year, that cost is expected to exceed $10 billion. The earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand will cost U.S. and foreign insurers more than $55 billion, according to Reuters.

Sources

Enhanced Fujita Scale Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enhanced_Fujita_Scale

Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/24/us-insurance-disasters-idUSTRE74M6GH20110524

WTHR NBC Indianapolis: http://www.wthr.com/story/14741054/joplin-receipt-turns-up-in-indiana

USA Today: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2011/05/joplin-tornado-debris/1

A storm chaser reporting the Joplin tornado

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