Now, approximately 34 months later, Joplin and Duquesne have broken through a barrier that looked a long way off on the evening of May 22, 2011. As of this month, Joplin has spent $998 million in repairs and new construction to recover from the massive destruction of that tornado storm. Add in the rebuilt East Middle School and the new Soaring Heights Elementary School just outside the city limits — the two projects total $46.3 million — along with an estimated $5 million in rebuilding in Duquesne, and the total tops more than $1 billion.
The first building permit was issued the day after the devastating tornado hit the town and was a bright moment in Joplin’s early recovery. It showed that Joplin would rebuild and do so immediately. That was important because many people felt at the time that Joplin’s economic survival was hanging in the balance. The concern was depopulation.
In some towns with a similar disaster the population loss is as high as 40 percent. The population modeling for Joplin so far is showing that they have had a decline of 4 to 4.5 percent. Before the tornado, Joplin’s population was 50,150.
Some good lessons here for communities and businesses post disaster.