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Morning headlines: Tuesday, May 24, 2011

(Official White House
President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Mo. Gov. Jay Nixon, during Obama's visit to Dublin May 23. The President and Gov. Nixon discussed the deadly tornado that touched down in Joplin, Mo., Sunday night. Obama will visit Joplin May 29.

Obama to Visit Joplin

Speaking from London, President Barack Obama says he plans to travel to Missouri on Sunday to meet with victims of the "devastating and heartbreaking" tornadoes that hit the state this weekend.

The president says he wants Midwesterners whose lives were disrupted by the deadly storms to be assured that the federal government will use all resources possible to help them recover and rebuild. Obama spoke in London, the second stop on his four-country, six-day tour of Europe. The president is due back in Washington Saturday night.

This morning, the Missouri Department of Public Safety confirmed that the death toll from the Joplin tornado is now at 117.

Electricity Still Out for Ameren Mo. and Ill. Customers

A day after a strong storm pummeled the metro St. Louis region leaving tens of thousands of homes and businesses in the dark, utility crews are making progress restoring power in Ill. and Mo.

Ameren Illinois says, as of this morning, about 1,600 customers in southern Illinois are still without power. That's down from some 14,000 outages immediately after the storm yesterday afternoon.

In Mo., nearly 16,000 Ameren customers remain without electricity this morning, mostly around St. Louis. That's down from a peak of about 68,000 homes and businesses.

Corps Says Birds Point Temporarily Fixed by March

The Southeast Missourian reports that corps Cpl. Vernie Reichling said in a post on Twitter Monday that engineers are developing plans to temporarily fix the levee by March 1. A corps spokesman says the work could be done before then, but that was the deadline it felt comfortable announcing.

 J. Michael Ponder, a Cape Girardeau lawyer, says the more than 80 property owners he represents in a federal lawsuit against the corps believe waiting until next spring will make their losses even higher. Their land was flooded when the corps intentionally opened a hole in the levee in May to ease flooding downstream.

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