msnbc.com news services
updated 5/23/2011 12:23:36 PM ET 2011-05-23T16:23:36

St. John's Regional Medical Center evacuated more than 100 patients after the hospital took a direct hit from the tornado, said Cora Scott, a spokeswoman at the hospital's sister facility in Springfield, Mo. St. John's hospital was among the worst-hit locations as the tornado tore a six-mile path across Joplin, Mo.

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The top two floors of the hospital were blown off and fires were reported inside. Hospital officials said 183 patients were in the hospital at the time. The patients were taken to other hospitals by air and ground ambulance, officials said.

St. John's Miranda Lewis said the hospital had five minutes warning that the tornado was coming.

"When you're talking about something like this, 10 minutes or 15 minutes (warning) is still going to be difficult," Lewis said.

Fifty-nine of the patients were taken to St. John's sister hospital in Springfield, spokeswoman Lisa Cox said. The patients ranged in age from a 4-year-old boy to a 91-year-old woman, she said, adding that none of the patients' conditions has been confirmed.

About 90 other patients were taken to CoxHealth hospitals in Springfield, said spokeswoman Stacy Fender. Many were treated and released and a few were admitted, said Fender, who couldn't comment on the patients' conditions.

Early Monday morning, floodlights from a temporary triage facility lit what remained of the building that once held as many 367 patients. Police officers could be seen combing the surrounding area for bodies.

In the parking lot, a helicopter lay crushed on its side, its rotors torn apart and windows smashed. Nearby, a pile of cars lay crumpled into a single mass of twisted metal. Winds from the storm carried debris up to 60 miles away, with medical records, X-rays, insulation and other items falling to the ground in Greene County, said Larry Woods, assistant director of the Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management.

When the tornado hit, Rod Pace, the hospital's Med Flight manager, was holding onto the building's glass doors which were weighted with 100-pound magnets to keep them locked. He was sucked outside briefly and then pushed back in like a rag doll.

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He fled to the hospital's interior for cover, and then heard a roar. Pace and a co-worker pushed on another door to make sure it stayed shut, but it kept swaying back and forth.

"I've heard people talk about being in tornadoes and saying it felt like the building was breathing," Pace said. "It was just like that."

The recovery effort was going as smoothly as possible, said Cox, of the St. John's site in Springfield. She credited frequent drills with calm amid the chaos.

"They really do a great job of preparing us for these kinds of incidents," she said.

The Associated Press and msnbc.com's JoNel Aleccia contributed to this report

Video: Storm chaser: ‘Overcome’ by twister’s aftermath

  1. Closed captioning of: Storm chaser: ‘Overcome’ by twister’s aftermath

    >> reporter: and joining me now, the weather channel 's mike bettes . mike, that was incredible reporting on an incredible situation. has it all sunk in yet?

    >> sort of. you know, i don't think any of us think we'll be witness to something like this. i think i just got overcome. so many people are devastated. they are very emotional and that carries over when you're out there looking at it. look at it, al. it's completely flattened. it's very tough for people who live here. it's tough to be amongst this and we were literally here ten minutes after the tornado hit.

    >> reporter: you were held up by hail from the tornado which probably saved your life.

    >> we have been out here on a two-week project storm-chasing. it hailed and rained so hard we had to stop in our vehicles. had we not we would have been in joplin when the tornado hit. our crew is fine. they're safe, but a lot of people aren't. our hearts go out to them.

    >> reporter: probably will never be the same again. mike, thankses for your work. the sad part is we have to worry about another risk -- a strong risk of devastating weather here. it's a wide swath stretching from dallas into the northeast. as you take a look as far as missouri is concerned, you can see from dallas on up into springfield and little rock , we are looking at the possibility of strong storms, tornadoes possible here. we have also got to add to that strong rain, heavy rain coming in. you can look on the radar. right now we have clear skies but it will be firing up again. rainfall amounts anywhere from two to four inches of rain. so we have flood watches and warnings up for a good portion of missouri. as you can see the rainfall amounts anywhere from two to four inches. but the big fear now, matt, is that if there is a tornado here, god forbid there is, there is nowhere to go. there is no place for anybody to take shelter. there is no shelter. so we pray to god this doesn't happen again, we don't have a repeat of this later today. matt?

    >> our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of joplin and other hard-hit areas.

Photos: Deadly storms rake Midwest

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  1. Patrick O'Banion salvages items from his devastated home in Joplin, Mo., on Monday, May 30. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Katlyn Wilkins, in tree, and Andrea Wilkins Morelli work on securing an American flag on May 29 in Joplin. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. President Barack Obama and residents view tornado damage on May 29 in Joplin. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. President Barack Obama pauses while speaking at Missouri Southern University on May 29, during a memorial for victims of the Joplin tornado. (Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Joplin residents stand for a moment of silence during a memorial service on May 29, marking the one week anniversary of an EF-5 tornado which ripped a six mile long path of destruction through Joplin.. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Kenzie Buffalo, left, plays catch with a baseball on the roof of what used to be her grandfather's house with her friend Sarah Koepke in Joplin on May 28. (Larry W. Smith / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Matt Teel cleans off a Jesus statue after it was found in the ruins of St. Mary's Church in Joplin on May 28. As the town continues to recover from the treacherous storm over 150 people are still missing. Funerals are being planned. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Tracey Presslor comforts friends and classmates of her nephew Will Norton on May 28 in Joplin. Family members had said Norton and his father were on the road when the storm hit. The teen's Hummer H3 flipped several times, throwing him from the vehicle, likely through the sunroof. His body was found in a pond near the truck. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Stephen Dickson stands in front of his parent's home while on the lookout for looters at dusk in Joplin on May 27. Although the house has no roof, Dickson sometimes sleeps in the home to protect it from looting. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The remains of a destroyed tree in Joplin on May 27, five days after a massive tornado passed through the town. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Debris is seen near Joplin High School on May 27 in Joplin. (T. Rob Brown / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. During a driving rain storm, Tracy Rogers, center, and others look for items to salvage from a friend's destroyed home on May 27 in Joplin. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A vault is all that remains of the Commerce Bank in a devastated Joplin neighborhood on May 27. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Scott Anderson reaches for a piece of debris on May 27 near his heavily damaged home in Joplin. Anderson said, "It's like they dropped a bomb on us." The town continues the process of recovering from the storm which damaged or destroyed an estimated 8,000 structures. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A storm cloud passes over a communications tower following a thunderstorm on May 27 in Joplin. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A search and rescue team looks for victims at a devastated apartment complex in Joplin on May 26. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Flags are placed around what's left of Joplin High School on May 26. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Maggie Burlingane looks at what remains of her daughter's home on May 26 in Joplin. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Clothes hang untouched in a closet inside a destroyed house in Joplin. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Blanca Lopez holds her daughter Bianca as they wait to receive food, clothes and other donated items in Joplin on May 26. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Robert Elbert hands a photograph of Stephanie Elbert's mother and father to her after they found it among the remains of their house on May 26 in Joplin. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Darryl Strickland walks through what is left of his garage near Elgin, Ala., on May 26. It was blown 50 yards along US 72 by severe weather that raced across northwest Alabama. (Matt Mckean / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Severe storms blew across the Midwest on May 25, hitting places like this trailer park in Bloomington, Ind. A few minor injuries were reported. (Darron Cummings / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Scott Taylor checks on Sue Dillman shortly after a severe storm tore the roof off her home in Bloomington on May 25. Dillman's home and surrounding barns were heavily damaged. (Chris Howell / The Herald Times via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Ryan Millikan, center, lifts a container to Nick Wongratananajcha, left, as they help Lee Morris gather his possessions on May 25, three days after a killer tornado ravaged neighborhoods in Joplin. (Tannen Maury / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. An aerial image of Joplin, Mo., shot on May 24, shows the remains of Joplin High School two days after an EF5 tornado touched down and destroyed a large portion of the town. The image was collected by digital imaging aircraft owned by M.J. Harden, a GeoEye Company. Harden flew an emergency mission for Missouri state officials to provide insight on relief efforts and emergency response. (M.j. Harden / Geoeye / Handout / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Alisha Kelly, of Neosho, gives away food and bottled water to residents and emergency workers on May 25 in Joplin. "We are just individuals who want to help," Kelly said. The tornado that ripped through the town of about 50,000 people May 22 is being called the deadliest single tornado in the U.S. in 60 years. (Julie Denesha / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A message is seen on the side of a building on May 25 in Joplin. A tornado tore through much of the city on Sunday, wiping out neighborhoods and killing more than 12o people. (Mark Humphrey / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Lori Haun removes the house letters from what remains of her devastated Joplin home on May 25. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. A recovery crew looks for bodies on May 25 in a destroyed church after a devastating tornado hit Joplin, Missouri. The death toll from a monster tornado that ravaged Joplin, rose to 125 on Wednesday after an overnight search turned up more bodies but no new survivors, authorities said. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Shirley Waits cries as she stands in what is left of her mother's home on May 25 in Joplin. (Jeff Roberson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Family and friends of a tornado victim clean-up and sort through debris on May 25 at a mobile home in Chickasha, Okla. (Sue Ogrocki / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. A house is left as a pile of rubble after being destroyed by a tornado west of El Reno, Okla. on May 24. (Chris Landsberger / The Oklahoman via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Rebecca Watts walks by a car stuck in a tree after a tornado hit north of El Reno, Okla. on May 24. The high-powered storms arrived Tuesday night and early Wednesday, just days after a massive tornado tore up the southwest Missouri city of Joplin. (Chris Landsberger / The Oklahoman via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Joplin High School sophomore Landan Taylor makes has way across the wreckage of the school's theater in Joplin, Mo., on May 24. At least 125 people were killed and hundreds more injured when a tornado cut a destructive path through Joplin on Sunday evening. Classes at all Joplin schools have been canceled for the rest of the schoolyear after four schools were damaged or destroyed. (Mark Schiefelbein / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. At the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota in Roseville on May 24, an avian nursery coordinator Jessika Madison helps feed some of the nine blue heron chicks that were orphaned by the tornado that hit Minneapolis on Sunday. The chicks have to be fed live minnows every 30-45 minutes while while they are awake. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii / Minneapolis Star Tribune via Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. An official searches for a missing child near the lake shore after a tornado ripped through the Falcon Lake area of Piedmont, Oklahoma, on May 24. Several tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma on Tuesday afternoon, the largest one striking El Reno, west of Oklahoma City, and continuing to the northeast, the National Weather Service said. (Bill Waugh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. A half-mile-wide tornado moves north towards Piedmont, Okla., on May 24. (Paul B. Southerland / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. The remains of the house owned by Scott and M'Lynn McCann that was destroyed by a tornado west of El Reno, Okla., are shown Tuesday. Authorities say a series of tornadoes rolled through Oklahoma City and its suburbs at rush hour on May 24. (Paul B. Southerland / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Neighbors pitch in to help recover items out of the home of Scott and M'Lynn McCann that was destroyed by a tornado west of El Reno, Okla., on May 24. (Chris Landsberger / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Armando Castillo retrieves personal items out of his truck that he was driving when it was swept off I-40 and destroyed by a tornado west of El Reno, Okla., on May 24. (Chris Landsberger / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Ken Haebaum stands in his mud-splattered kitchen after a tornado ripped through the Falcon Lake area of Piedmont, Okla., on May 24. Haebaum and his wife sought shelter from the tornado in the hallway behind the door on the right side of the photo. (Bill Waugh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Martha Gaines walks among the rubble of her home after a tornado ripped through the Falcon Lake area of Piedmont, Okla., on May 24. (Bill Waugh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Jeannie Owens searches through a family member's destroyed home in Joplin, Mo., on May 24. A devastating tornado hit the day before, leaving hundreds dead or injured. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. A rescue team searches for survivors in a store on May 24 in Joplin, Mo. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. Paul Wright attempts to salvage items from a family member's home in Joplin, Mo. on May 24. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. Jerry Parker looks through pictures recovered from his destroyed home in Joplin, Mo. on May 24. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. Christal Comstock sits outside her family home, which was destroyed in Joplin, Mo. on May 24. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. Kyle and Alicia Gordon of Joplin, Mo., embrace in what's left of their son's room on May 24 (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. The path of the powerful tornado that destroyed a 6-mile-long swath of Joplin, Mo. is seen May 24. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. Dina Meek and her daughter Maddie, 9, salvage what they can from her sister-in-law's home on May 24. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  52. Ernie Darby removes a table from a debris site in Joplin, Mo., on May 24. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  53. Members of the Missouri Task Force One search-and-rescue team work at the Home Depot store in Joplin on May 24. (Jeff Roberson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  54. Mangled cars are inside a destroyed Joplin apartment complex on May 24. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  55. Volunteers look for survivors in the rubble of a home in Joplin, Mo., on May 24. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  56. Water spurts from a broken water line in a destroyed Joplin home on May 24 as Lindsay Grundy, left, and Dana Moritz search for their grandmother's belongings. (Tannen Maury / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  57. David Turner removes a file cabinet on May 24 from the destroyed home of his sister in Joplin. (Tannen Maury / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  58. The view of a destroyed Joplin apartment complex on May 24. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  59. A vehicle on May 24 sits in the debris of a cell phone tower that collapsed onto an apartment building on the east side of Joplin. (Mark Schiefelbein / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  60. Greg Beeching, left, and his son Brian Beeching move a washer and dryer out of a relative's damaged apartment in Joplin on May 24. (Mark Schiefelbein / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  61. The hard-hit St. John's Regional Medical Center in Joplin as well as dozens of destroyed homes are seen on May 24. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  62. Alicia Gordon salvages items on May 24 from her Joplin home. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  63. The sun rises over a destroyed neighborhood in Joplin on May 24. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  64. Ernie Darby hugs his son Davis on May 24 as they salvage what they can from the remains of their home in Joplin. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  65. Janet Martin attempts to salvage medication and mementos from her brother's home in Joplin before a second storm moves in on May 23. "Twenty minutes before the storm, he left to go to church," she said. "He would have been in that basement if he hadn't gone." (Julie Denesha / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  66. A couple walk toward a destroyed building in Joplin on May 23. (Ed Zurga / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  67. Volunteers clear rubble as they look for survivors in Joplin on May 23. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  68. A police officer sits in his vehicle facing what is left of the high schoolin Joplin on May 23. (Larry W Smith / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  69. Kathleen Kelsey, a canine rescue specialist with the Missouri Task Force One search-and-rescue team, guides ChicoDog through the wreckage of a public housing complex in Joplin on May 23. (Mark Schiefelbein / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  70. People look at what is left of homes in a Joplin neighborhood on May 23. (Larry W Smith / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  71. Joplin was not the only area that saw a twister over the weekend. Reading, Kan., also was hit, with one person killed. This grain elevator was part of the debris field there on May 23. (Orlin Wagner / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  72. Rescue workers in lime-green jackets search St. John's hospital in Joplin, Mo., May 23. (Wisneski Tulsa World / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  73. This Joplin neighborhood was almost completely flattened. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  74. Maggie Kelley and her husband, Trey Adams hug their dog, Saint, after finding him amid the rubble of her home in Joplin, May 23. (Adam Wisneski / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  75. Ted Grabenauer sleeps on his front porch the morning after a tornado ripped the roof of his home in Joplin, Mo., May 23. (Mike Stone / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  76. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

    A pool of blood remains on the floor of a business in Joplin, Mo., May 23. (Mike Stone / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  77. A note to rescue workers is seen on a house damaged by a tornado in Joplin, Mo., May 23. (Adam Wisneski / Tulsa World via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  78. Mark Langford sorts through the debris looking for personal belongings after his home was destroyed when a tornado hit Joplin, Mo., May 23. (Mike Stone / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  79. A shelf cloud containing a thunderstorm approaches tornado-ravaged Joplin, Mo., on May 23. A large tornado moved through much of the city Sunday, damaging a hospital, hundreds of homes and businesses and killing at least 89 people. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  80. Blocks of homes lie in total destruction after a tornado hit Joplin, Mo., on May 23. (Mike Stone / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  81. Donald and Helen Capps of Joplin, Mo., sit in a temporary Red Cross shelter at the Robert Ellis Young Gymnasium at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Mo., on May 23. The Capps lost their home after a destructive tornado moved through Joplin on Sunday evening. (Mark Schiefelbein / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  82. Emergency workers wait for a medical team after finding a body in a destroyed car in Joplin, Mo., in the early hours of May 23. A large tornado moved through much of the city Sunday, damaging a hospital and hundreds of homes and businesses. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  83. Utility workers clear downed power lines near the St. John's hospital early on Monday after the devastating tornado hit Joplin, Mo. (Mike Stone / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  84. An emergency worker searches a Walmart store that was severely damaged by the tornado that hit Joplin, Mo., on May 22. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  85. Emergency vehicles line up along northbound Rangeline Road in Joplin, Mo. after the tornado swept through the city on Sunday evening. (Roger Nomer / The Joplin Globe via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  86. Joplin residents help a woman who survived in her basement when the tornado hit the city on Sunday. (Mike Gullett / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  87. A destroyed helicopter lies on its side in the parking lot of the Joplin Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Mo., on May 22. (Mark Schiefelbein / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  88. William Jackson, left, and Ashley Martin, volunteer firefighters from Oklahoma, survey the wreckage of destroyed homes in Joplin, Mo., on May 22. (Mark Schiefelbein / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  89. Two rescuers try to pull a woman from a destroyed building in Joplin, Mo., after a tornado struck the city on May 22. (Roger Nomer / The Joplin Globe via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  90. A man carries a young girl who was rescued after being trapped with her mother in their home after the tornado hit Joplin, Mo. on May 22. (Mike Gullett / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  91. Rescuers and neighbors look through the the wreckage of destroyed homes on a hillside in Joplin, Mo., on May 22. (Mark Schiefelbein / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  92. A triage team treats wounded people at a triage station set up at 26th and Main Streets in Joplin, Mo. after the tornado swept through the city on May 22. (Mari Taylor / The Joplin Globe via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  93. Emergency personnel walk through a neighborhood severely damaged by a tornado near the Joplin Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Mo., on May 22. (Mark Schiefelbein / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  94. A pickup truck with what look to be two rescue workers and two injured people weaves in and out of traffic to get to Freeman Hospital West in Joplin, Mo. (Jaime Green / The Wichita Eagle via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  95. A tractor trailer is tipped over on Interstate 44 near Joplin, Mo., after the town was hit by a tornado on May 22. (Jaime Green / The Wichita Eagle via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  96. A woman talks on the phone from a roofless garage after a tornado struck northern Minneapolis, May 22, causing extensive property damage, killing at least one person and injuring at least 18 others. (Craig Lassig / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  97. Lucas Wickander, 13, shows off the skinned knuckles he received after diving under a porch to escape a tornado that struck northern Minneapolis, May 22. (Craig Lassig / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  98. This photo taken Saturday, May 21, looking east from S.W. 37th and Wanamaker shows funnel clouds above Topeka, Kan., at around 6:20 p.m. (Phil Anderson / The Capital-Journal via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  99. Damage to the Reading, Kan., post office caused by a tornado is shown May 22. (Anthony S. Bush / The Capital-Journal via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  100. Matt Railsback, of Miller, Kan., looks at the damage on May 22, caused by a tornado Saturday night in Reading, Kan. Miller was trapped in a storm shelter with his girlfriend in the blue house in the background. His truck was rolled end over end and came to rest at the fire station across the street. (Anthony S. Bush / The Capital-Journal via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  101. Cleanup begins at a tornado-damaged home in Reading, Kan., May 22. (Orlin Wagner / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  102. Lightning from a severe thunderstorm flashes in the distance beyond a crucifix in a cemetery near Easton, Kan., Saturday, May 21. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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