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While Oklahoma staggers, Joplin marks 2 years after its own tornado

Charlie Riedel / AP

A man salvages a guitar from a severely damaged home in Joplin, Mo., on May 23, 2011.

While Oklahoma begins to clean up after a ferocious tornado, the site of one of the worst twisters in American history — Joplin, Mo., a little more than 200 miles away — marked a solemn anniversary Wednesday.

On May 22, 2011, a tornado all but wiped Joplin off the map. The twister killed 161 people, injured more than 1,000 and wrought almost $3 billion worth of damage. It was clocked at more than 200 mph.

Two years after a tornado destroyed much of Joplin, Mo., the town has come back even stronger with changes to their infrastructures that are helping people stay safe. Now, nearly 80 percent of new homes include a safe room, and a new hospital will open in 2015 with windows able to withstand 250 mph winds. NBC's Erica Hill reports.

But the town has come back even stronger with changes to their infrastructure that are helping people stay safe. Now, nearly 80 percent of new homes include a safe room, and a new hospital will open in 2015 with windows able to withstand 250 mph winds.

“Devastation is a short walk, but determination lasts all the time,” Mayor Melodee Colbert Kean said. “Joplin is a city of hope. We know what it’s like to suffer… but know what it's like to get back up.”

Ninety percent of affected businesses are now open and 75 percent of the homes have been rebuilt.

And Mercy Hospital, once the symbol of the tornado's fury, was running again in just eight months.

A new facility will open in 2015 with walls and windows built to withstand 250 mph winds and its electrical systems securely buried under ground.

A moment of silence was held at 5:41 p.m. local time, the moment the tornado struck two years ago. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who earlier in the day was in Moore, Okla., to pledge federal help, attended the commemoration.

The deadliest tornado to hit the U.S. since 1947 struck Joplin, Mo., on May 23, 2011.

Joplin sent a support team to Moore to help with the recovery. The cities each have about 50,000 people.

The Joplin tornado damaged or destroyed 7,500 homes. On the Senate floor Wednesday, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt said there were lessons for Moore in the rebuilding.

“For the people in Joplin, they immediately began to think about Joplin tomorrow instead of Joplin yesterday,” he said. “And two years later, it’s still a community that’s dealing with loss, but a community that’s building new schools and new businesses.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided housing for 586 households after the Joplin tornado, and all but 12 have moved into longer-term or permanent homes, the city says.

NBC News' Becky Bratu contributed to this report.

Tannen Maury / EPA

A monster tornado hit Moore, Okla., Monday afternoon, leaving at least 24 dead.

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