10:30 PM Update: Meanwhile, multiple strong tornadoes today have reportedly killed at least 4 people in the Oklahoma City area and 2 more in Kansas, about 100 miles west of Wichita.
The preliminary total of tornado reports today has now reached 24.
A tornado warning is currently in effect including the Joplin area until 10 pm CDT:
...A TORNADO WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 1000 PM CDT FOROriginal post:
NORTHWESTERN NEWTON...WESTERN JASPER AND SOUTHEASTERN CHEROKEE
AT 918 PM CDT...TRAINED WEATHER SPOTTERS REPORTED A FUNNEL CLOUD 3
MILES SOUTH OF NEUTRAL...OR 3 MILES NORTHWEST OF BAXTER
SPRINGS...MOVING NORTHEAST AT 50 MPH.
The National Weather Service has upgraded the Joplin, Missouri tornado to EF-5 intensity, the highest rating, with winds over 200 mph. As of 6 pm CDT, the death toll is estimated at 122 with 750 injuries. This means the storm is the "deadliest since modern recordkeeping began in 1950 and is ranked 8th among the deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history." The path length is still being analyzed, but the path width was 3/4 mile. The death toll is expected to rise, with a reported 1500 people still missing.
The NWS also reported that the 1.83" of rainfall at Joplin on May 23 (Monday) was nearly double the previous daily record of 0.98" set in 1978. The monthly rainfall total to date of 6.46" is nearly 70% above average. Climate records for Joplin date back to 1902.
Video of the ongoing rescue operation, including an interview with FEMA Director Craig Fugate, from the PBS NewsHour: