JOPLIN, MO (KCTV) -- Eight years ago, a high school in Joplin was flattened. Nothing left but rubble after a massive rain wrapped tornado swept through Joplin. Wednesday night, the town southern Missouri is looking at more storms, but this time with more shelter.

“I come when the watch goes out,” Kay Johnson, a community volunteer, said.

Johnson remembers the tornado eight years ago.

“Dear Jesus, save us all,” Johnson said. 

Johnson, like thousands of others in Joplin, tried to find shelter wherever they could as the rain wrapped tornado clawed its way through town.

“This was wedge shaped and it was rain wrapped,” Keith Stammer, the Emergency Management Director for Jasper County, said.

He sounded the sirens on this day in 2011.

“The pivotal moment for me is when I went in to dispatch and they told me there were reports of 24 dead,” Stammer said.

161 people died after the EF5 tornado touched down west of town.

Joplin is different Wednesday.

“Prior to eight years ago, we never really thought in terms of disasters that were larger than us,” Stammer said.

People think about safety differently now too.

“Go to shelter,” Stammer said.

Go places like Kelsey Norman Elementary and meet people like Kay Johnson.

“I watch all day long. I’m ready,” Johnson said.

Johnson has a bag full of supplies including her orange vest and a flashlight with full batteries. These shelters are meant for people in the neighborhoods, people like Johnson.

Learning the lessons of 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri

“I would say it takes me exactly two minutes to drive from my house to here,” Johnson said.

The gym can fit 800 people inside. Johnson said the most she has seen is about 250 people.

District officials said there are five shelters inside the school. It could fit thousands of people if needed.

Johnson said she keeps the doors to the shelter open as long as she can.

Later Wednesday night, tornado sirens sounded in Joplin.

People who survived the tornado in 2011, were forced to take cover again, Wednesday night.

Near the Kansas and Missouri state line, there is damage left behind. There are thousands of people in the area and KCTV5 only talked to a few and every person said they were in the Joplin tornado eight years ago.

“It was scary though. After going through Joplin and hearing it was a mile wide. That was very scary,” Susan Busick, who took shelter from the tornado, said.

“The tornado was just on the ground. It went straight through here. It went right over through here. It looked like a big wall of cloud hitting the ground,” Justine Lovell, went to a tornado shelter, said.

“It sounds like a very, very, very loud whistle and then everything hitting the cellar door,” Sonya Barnes, also went to a storm shelter, said.

“Your ears pop and the first thing that pops in to your mind is, is my family safe?” Lovell said.

KCTV5 News spoke to a Jasper County Sheriff Deputy. He said that as of right now, there are no fatalities and no injuries. The Joplin, Missouri chief said there is no damage in the city. is now with you on the go! Get the latest news updates and video, StormTrack5 weather forecast, weather radar, special investigative reports, sports headlines and much more from KCTV5 News. 

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