- Associated Press - Thursday, May 26, 2011

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — As emergency workers searched Thursday for more than 230 people on a list of the missing after a tornado smacked into Joplin, one of them was sitting in a wooden chair outside the wreckage of her home, cuddling her cat.

Sally Adams, 75, said neighbors rescued her Sunday after the storm destroyed her house and took her to a friend’s home. When the Associated Press told Ms. Adams she was on the missing list, she laughed and said, “Get me off of there!”

Missouri officials earlier said they believed many of the missing were safe and alive but simply hadn’t been in touch with friends and family, in part because cellphone service has been spotty.

The AP found that was the case with at least a dozen of the 232 still unaccounted for Thursday. Along with Mrs. Adams, it found two survivors at a hotel and six who a relative said were staying with friends.

Ms. Adams said she lost her cellphone in the storm and had no way of contacting her family to let them know she was OK. She was placed on the missing list after relatives called a hot line and posted Facebook messages saying she was missing.

Her son, Bill Adams, said he told authorities his mother was alive after he learned she was safe, yet she remained on their unaccounted-for list at midday Thursday.

Mike O’Connell, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Public Safety, said he wouldn’t call Mrs. Adams‘ listing a mistake. He urged other survivors to check the list and call if they see their names.

Not all of the stories of people on the list will end so well. The tornado killed at least 126 people and some of their families waited Thursday for their names to be released.

Still, some of the bodies have yet to be identified. Andrea Spillars, deputy director and general counsel of the Missouri Department of Public Safety, said officials know some of the people unaccounted for are dead, but she wouldn’t say how many or when the names of the deceased would be released.

Chris Haddock, 23, said his father was one of the deceased on the missing list. A commercial truck driver found 62-year-old Paul Haddock’s body in his pickup truck behind a flattened Wal-Mart.

“They found his wallet and his cellphone in his pocket,” Chris Haddock said. “That’s how they know it’s him.”

In another example of the potential overlap: 12 residents of the Greenbriar nursing home are listed as missing, but nursing home administrators reported earlier that 11 people died in the tornado. Only one resident was known missing.

One of the 12 listed as missing from Greenbriar is Dorothy Hartman, an Alzheimer’s patient. Pamela McBroom, 49, who lives near the nursing home, said one of her daughters used to work there, developed a soft spot for Mrs. Hartman and introduced them. Ms. Hartman was frail “but very positive and full of life,” she said.

Mrs. McBroom said she and her 16-year-old daughter were hiding in a closet when the tornado tore their walls and roof away. Her walls gone, Ms. McBroom could see the mayhem at Greenbriar.

“I could see people flying out of the nursing home by my house,” Ms. McBroom said. “I could hear them screaming. Just screaming. It was horrible.”

Nursing home officials haven’t said whether Mrs. Hartman was one of the 11 who died.

Identification of the deceased has been slow because officials have taken extra precautions since a woman misidentified one victim as her son in the chaotic hours after the tornado hit, Newton County coroner Mark Bridges said.

A federal forensics team of 50 to 75 disaster mortuary specialists has been at work in six refrigerated trucks, collecting DNA samples for testing, taking fingerprints, and looking for tattoos, body piercings, moles and other distinctive marks. Mr. Bridges expected as many as 19 bodies would be released by Friday morning.

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