(Joplin, MO) -- A "direct hit." That's how officials are describing the tornado that tore through the town of Joplin, Missouri.
The Sunday afternoon twister killed at least 89 people and injured many more, but officials warn the death toll could reach as high as 100.
"I would say 75% of the town is virtually gone," said Kathy Dennis of the American Red Cross.
Joplin Vice Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean says the town is in a state of "chaos."
President Obama says in a statement his "deepest condolences" go out to the victims' families.
Jasper County emergency management director Keith Stammer as many at 7,000 structures could end up being damaged citywide.
Meteorologists say the twister was "rain-wrapped," meaning it would have been nearly impossible to see.
The massive tornado, estimated to be an EF4, blasted a six-mile path across southwest Missouri.
The Joplin mayor has declared a local disaster and Governor Jay Nixon has deployed the Missouri National Guard and declared a state of emergency.
"It's total devastation, with a hospital down, the high school down, other areas," he said Sunday night. "We just want to make sure that as the night goes on, we're saving lives between now and dawn."
The Missouri Department of Public Safety deployed search and rescue teams, medical personnel, and heavy equipment Sunday night into Monday morning.
Empire Electric says about 20,000 people remain without power in the area.
Around 5:30 p.m. Sunday, the multi-vortex tornado was reported near 13th and Rangeline Road (a major thoroughfare) with several buildings -- including a Walmart -- toppled to the ground.
The tornado slammed into St. John's Hospital, doing damage from the top to the bottom of the building.
One witness reported seeing a victim blown out of the building when the twister hit.
Portions of the top of St. John's Hospital were sheared off.
There were 183 patients inside the building at that time; at least 25 people had been taken to St. John's in Springfield by 4 a.m. Monday.
A triage operation was set up in the hospital's parking lot. Those in critical condition were sent to Freeman Health Systems.
There were concerns about an explosion at the medical facility.
There were also concerns there about a possible gas leak.
Memorial Hall, in downtown Joplin, served as a makeshift hospital where nurses and emergency workers treated patients.
Meanwhile, a mobile morgue was set up at Missouri Southern State University.
The Joplin High School at 20th and Indiana was damaged. The graduation was Sunday, but it held at Missouri Southern.
Franklin Technical School was destroyed.
The Home Depot, Payless Shoes, Walgreens, Academy Sports, and Pizza Hut were also heavily damaged in that area.
Plaza apartments and storage facilities behind the Walmart at 15th street also received damage.
Parts of the city were unrecognizable, according to Steve Polley, a storm chaser from Kansas City who described the damage as "complete devastation."
CoxHealth and St. John's health systems in Springfield sent help to the scene after gathering at the fairgrounds.
Drivers along I-44 were quick to note a barrage of emergency vehicles heading east and west.
However, a major barrier stood in their way. Interstate 44 was closed along mile marker 18 in Joplin due to the overturned traffic and uprooted signs.
The Red Cross says volunteers were mobilized and a shelter had been set up at Missouri Southern State College at 3950 E. Newman Road in Joplin at the Leggett & Platt Ath Center.
Nurses or doctors looking to help have been told to call (417) 832-9500 for the Greater Ozarks chapter of the American Red Cross.
Click here for a list of Red Cross shelters.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol is asking all first responders to go to Joplin to a command post at 34th & Main.
The City and Joplin R-8 are coordinating transportation to help those left homeless due to tornado.
People can go to the following locations and a bus will take them to the shelter.
1. Junge Stadium on 13th Street;
2. Forest Park Baptist Church, 7th & Rangeline
3. Lowe's 24th & Rangeline
4. Vintage Stock, 32nd & Main.
Happy Tails Farm in Pittsburg, Kansas, is open to help take in the displaced animals from the Joplin tornado until their families can claim or longterm rescue can be found. Call (620) 875-9821 or (620) 875-0280.
FEMA says it has also been in constant contact with officials at the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency since the severe weather hit.
The city of Branson on Sunday evening sent a fire truck and five firefighters to help with recovery.
Residents are also asked to stay home, allowing
rescue workers to do their jobs.
Meanwhile, all city employees have been asked to report to work.
City officials Joplin are also asking residents to limit the amount of water they use.
They say firefighters need all the water they can get to battle blazes across the area, sparked by the tornado.
Dazed residents are on the streets of the neighborhood, helping some into wheelchairs, crying and hugging each other, and working with police and firefighters as they begin the process of accounting for everyone.
Debris in the Ozarks
Debris from Sunday's storm has been reported several miles away.
"I live in Nixa and just found a Check from Joplin Mo dated in 1980," Emily Deese tells
"We found a picture and part of immunization record and a laminated hymn of the Lord's Prayer," says Jennie Twyman in Brighton. "And half a check from 1967."
Vikki Hanks in Eudora says she found a fishing bucket, baseball, picture, and a prescription paper in her backyard (see photo below).
"That means it travled 46.2 miles," says her daughter. "We live 46 minutes away from Joplin."
Residents 70 miles away from Joplin in Dade County were finding X-rays from St. John's in their driveways, said Foreman, indicating the size and power of the twister.
Path of Destruction
Between mile markers 10 and 12 on I-44, there were reports of trees stripped of bark and more than 20 semi trucks and cars overturned.
About two miles southeast of Joplin, the neighborhood at 22nd and Blackcat road saw massive damage to homes and trees, with people trapped in debris.
The National Weather Service also reported a tornado on the ground just north of Pierce City around 6:30 p.m. and a possible tornado on the ground near Freistatt at 6:40 p.m.
Structures were reported damaged on Highway 97 north of Pierce City.
Power poles were reported down across Highway V and the highway was ruled impassible with tornado damage.
There were also reports of trees down ten miles north of Rogersville and 6805 Highway KK.
Later in the day, there were reports of houses and mobile damage along with numerous trees down on Horse Creek Road east of Galena in Stone County.
The National Weather Service says there was also house damage on Bass Hollow Road east of Coon Ridge Road.
A home was reportedly destroyed on Highway AA about a mile east of Highway 413.
Storms have hit more than nine states, and watches and warnings continue into the early morning hours in some areas.
(Copyright 2011 by VERTEXNews/Newsroom Solutions/CNN)