The death toll in Joplin, Mo., rose to 90 today after what officials are calling the deadliest tornado in the country since 1953.

It's total devastation, Gov. Jay Nixon said on Sunday, as he dispatched the National Guard and emergency rescue teams.

We are responding aggressively, quickly. We want to make sure as the night goes on that we're saving lives between now and dawn, Nixon told CNN. There are a number of injuries. It's going to be a long night and a difficult recovery.

The tornado blew the roof off one hospital, ripped parts of another roof off a high school and left nearly 2,000 other homes and buildings in a giant heap.

For Sharon Hurtt and Bill Dearing, it was a mattress wedged in the doorway of their single-story home that probably saved us, Reuters reported Hurtt saying.

Huddled in a closet for refuge, as they had no basement, Hurtt and Dearing said they held on tight as the tornado ripped off the roof and closet doors of their haven.

We were holding on to keep from blowing away, Hurtt said.

While they were fortunate, many others were not.

The Baltimore Sun reported Newton County Coroner Mark Bridges saying that a number of bodies were found along the city's restaurant row.

The loss of life is incredible, said Joplin Mayor Mike Woolston, Reuters reported. We're still trying to find people. The outlook is pretty bleak.

A temporary morgue was set up at the Missouri Southern State University; a local concert hall is serving as a shelter for people, now, with nowhere to return.

Joplin City Councilwoman Melodee Colbert-Kean, who serves as vice mayor, said the town was in a state of chaos.

It is just utter devastation anywhere you look to the south and the east -- businesses, apartment complexes, houses, cars, trees, schools, you name it, it is leveled, leveled, she told Reuters by telephone early on Monday.

President Obama said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was responding.

The path of the tornado is estimated at six miles long and about a half-mile wide, city manager Mark Rohr said.