Typically, populations decline gradually. But in Joplin, Mo., the drop occurred almost instantly in May 2011, when one of the most destructive tornadoes in U.S. history struck the area.
The storm killed 161 people and destroyed more than 7,000 homes. In some neighborhoods, nearly every home was flattened.
"Many people had to move to surrounding cities -- but they're rebuilding in Joplin," said Melodee Colbert-Kean, Joplin's mayor.
Until the tornado, population growth had been strong for decades, increasing 57% since 1970.
But the town is working on getting back on its feet. A transportation hub, large trucking firms, like Con-way Truckload with its 2,700 workers and Standard Transportation with six locations, have set up shop there.