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Tornado Leaves Joplin Residents Incommunicado


In addition to killing at least 116 people, the tornado devastated much of the city's physical infrastructure, buildings, and either damaged cell towers or left them powerless.

The nation's largest wireless communications providers are rushing out temporary cell towers and back-up communications facilities on trucks to the area to address the situation. They're also working on restoring power to their existing towers

Verizon Wireless is deploying three temporary cell phone towers to restore communications capabilities in and around Joplin. Sprint is sending out similar equipment.

"The temporary towers will provide network coverage to Verizon Wireless customers in some of the hardest hit areas in and around Joplin so that they can contact family, friends and loved one," the company said in a statement.

A local PR manager for Verizon Wireless tweeted Monday that its local store is fine, and open for business.

An AT&T store in Joplin wasn't so lucky. The LA Times reports that the tornado left the store as nothing but "flattened, knotted cage of metal."

"We're still assessing damages to our network in some areas, but have begun repairs in others," said Lauren Walters, a spokesperson for AT&T.

The company has dispatched its network disaster recovery team, as well as others, to help its restoration efforts, she said.

Sprint's Emergency Response Team is helping local public safety officials by providing them with satellite phones and wireless devices to improve their communications capabilities, as well as donating $100,000 to the American Red Cross for relief efforts.

In the meantime, Facebook has become a hub of information for Joplin's residents as they try to locate their friends and family since their cell phone service has been knocked out.