The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2011 Joplin tornado

July 26, 2012

Another St. John’s section succumbs to wrecking ball

JOPLIN, Mo. — A 5,000-pound wrecking ball was back in action Thursday, swinging away at what is left of the former St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin.

Dan O’Connor, project manager for Northstar Management, of St. Louis, said the building is reluctant to fall down. He said the 200 mph winds of May 22, 2011, knocked the hospital out of service, but, according to engineering studies conducted in the weeks after the storm, they did not come close to physically knocking the structure down.

“There was absolutely no structural damage to the building whatsoever,” he said, contradicting word that circulated immediately after the storm that the building was shifted off its foundation by the EF-5 tornado. “The building didn’t move. It didn’t shift. The only structural damage was to the penthouse, which was made of a much lighter grade steel.”

The sturdiness of the steel-reinforced concrete frame was on display Thursday as the wrecking ball pounded away for most of the day on the West Tower with little visible result. Finally, at about 3 p.m., a corner section of the tower gave way in a crash of dust and debris.

O’Connor said the wrecking ball will continue to be employed to bring down the older West Tower, which dates from 1968 and is constructed of steel-reinforced cast concrete. He said the newer East Tower, dating from 1982, holds structural steel beams, which will be cut.

O’Connor said the structure withstood the storm, but its lightly shielded emergency generators did not.

“What happened here was that our generator building, which was on the north side, was hit with a large rooftop air unit, and that knocked out all of the backup power,” he said.

It was the loss of power that caused five of the six deaths reported at the hospital in the storm. All five patients who died were on ventilators and perished when the machines lost power.

O’Connor said that while the structure was still intact, the peripheral damage to the building, combined with the age of the structure, made the cost of repairing it prohibitive.

He said many portions of the hospital were no longer up to code. He said the plumbing, heating and cooling systems, emergency sprinklers, and narrow stairwells were not up to modern hospital standards.

“The cost to repair this hospital outweighed the cost to replace it,” he said.

O’Connor said the new hospital being built near Interstate 44 will benefit from the hard-learned lessons from May 22, 2011. He said the hospital will be a hardened structure with reinforced stairwells. He said the building also will feature windows made of laminated glass that is shatter-resistant and has a high ballistic rating. They are designed to withstand 200 mph winds.

“They’re not bulletproof, but they’re close,” he said of the new windows.

O’Connor said the hospital’s generators will be located away from the main building in a reinforced concrete structure. The lines connecting the generators to the hospital will run through a protective tunnel.

New Mercy

CREWS HAVE BEEN WORKING to demolish the nine-story, 750,000-square-foot structure since January. A new 825,000-square-foot, 300-bed Mercy Hospital Joplin is under construction near Interstate 44 and Hearnes Boulevard. The new hospital is scheduled to be open in mid-2015.

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May 2011 Joplin tornado
  • Local new-home construction catches up to previous pace

    After a slow start early in this fiscal year for Joplin, the construction of new houses has resumed at the pace that existed in fiscal year 2013, when permits for new houses averaged more than 16 per month. Since November, the beginning of Joplin’s fiscal year, permits for 118 houses have been issued for a total cost of $12.8 million. The average value has been about $108,000.

    June 11, 2014

  • 052212 unity walk1_72.jpg SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary

    May 22, 2012 1 Photo

  • 060314 Farmers rebuild 1_72.jpg Farmers Insurance writes manual based on experience from Joplin disaster recovery

    Joplin’s housing recovery from the 2011 tornado is one for the books. Jeff Dailey, CEO of Farmers Insurance, announced Tuesday that not only will Farmers Insurance stick with Rebuild Joplin to repair and replace the homes left on the local group’s waiting list, but the company also will kick off a similar recovery effort today for the city of Sea Bright, New Jersey, based on a book it has written to expedite disaster recovery that is based on its experience in Joplin.

    June 3, 2014 2 Photos

  • r052214butterflygarden.jpg New park feature opens on tornado anniversary to encourage healing

    Cunningham Park has become an emotional place for Pamela Praytor. The name of her son, Christopher Lucas, is engraved on a monument that stands in the park in memory of the 161 people who were killed in the May 2011 tornado. “Even though I cry when I come, it’s OK,” she said. “It’s part of the healing.”

    May 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • r051214greenbldgs3.jpg Home, business cited as examples of energy efficiency, strength

    Ramona and Charles “Hugh’’ Shields were not the least bit reluctant on Monday to open their new house in the tornado zone to a bunch of strangers who had a lot of questions. “I used to live in a house where I had to wear two pairs of socks in the winter to keep my feet warm — not anymore,’’ said Ramona Shields. “This house is nice and warm in the winter, and nice and cool in the summer.’’

    May 12, 2014 2 Photos

  • Mercy Health System to receive $23 million FEMA grant

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide Mercy Health System of Joplin with $23 million in public assistance funding by the end of the year. The disaster relief was announced Friday by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.

    April 25, 2014

  • Respond With Love flower.jpg Joplin pays it forward with flowers; residents asked to return bulbs ‘fostered’ for other towns

    Suzan Morang’s front yard bloomed brightly last year from a colorful array of bulbs that she will happily pass on to someone else this year. Morang, 1207 Xenia Court, is a participant in America Responds With Love, a national nonprofit organization that distributes bulbs to disaster-stricken cities.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Creator of Joplin-based ‘Dear World’ exhibit features Boston bombing victims in new work

    The messages written on the skin of some Boston Marathon victims may be different, but Joplin residents will recognize the handwriting. Robert X. Fogarty, the creator of the “Dear World: From Joplin with Love” exhibit, took his signature style of photography and inspiration to Boston. Fogarty traveled to Joplin in 2011 and took pictures of community members with inspirational messages written on their bodies in black ink.

    April 21, 2014

  • r041414wildwood.jpg Opening of nursing home another recovery milestone

    Gladys Dutton has done a lot of things in her life, but Monday’s dedication of the Communities at Wildwood Ranch nursing home marked a first. “I’ve never cut a ribbon before,” she said. “I hope I do a good job.” Dutton was one of four residents to participate in the opening of the $8.5 million nursing center that eventually will be home to 120 people.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Joplin Redevelopment Corp. preparing for first property sale

    The first sale of property from the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. to Wallace Bajjali Development Partners is scheduled for May 16. The city staff will be working to prepare for that sale, it was discussed on Tuesday at a meeting of the JRC.

    April 9, 2014

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