Joplin is led quite effectively, it seems on first impression, by Mayor Mike Woolston, who appeared with Joplin schools Superintendent C.J. Huff, on CBS's Early Show on on Saturday to update the nation on the situation:;lst;1

About 17,000-20,000 people were displaced from their homes. That's about 7,500 households, or about 30 percent of Joplin. About 7,500 vehicles were damaged.

Joplin has a population of about 55,000, but the "daytime" population increases to about 250,000 due to it being the fourth-largest metro area in Missouri, Woolston said.

Initially the tornado that hit here on May 22, 2011, was said to have officially measured three miles wide and six miles across, but now it's measured at about 13 miles, according to FEMA reports. The mayor reported in a matter-of-fact and not at all bragging tone, that FEMA is pretty much re-writing the book on how cities should deal with natural disasters based on the Joplin experience.

Near the worst of it, the tornado destroyed neighborhoods in such a way that the scene near Joplin High School on the corner of 20th and Indiana, can only be described as a war zone. One could just as easily say the scene could be in Iraq or post-earthquake Haiti. Despite the major portion of debris removal having been completed, a substantial part of the city remains with the partial walls and foundations of houses and businesses waiting like dead men standing on death row.

Some houses have a few tidbits in the driveways waiting to be carried away like eclectic yard sale items--a can of Ranch Style beans, a bowling ball, a truck engine. Rugs wrapped on lonely, drooping limbs hug homeless trees as high as 20 feet in the air and hang like drapery. Some houses still have fireplaces and partial chimneys. Some have toilets and tubs visible from the street through studs holding up invisible walls.

Look for a front-page story about Joplin in USA Today on Monday, Aug. 15.