Tragedy, danger -- and a dash of dumb luck in Mo.

Search and rescue teams go door-to-door in Joplin, Mo.
Search and rescue teams go door-to-door in Joplin, Mo., May 24, 2011. Pictures: Joplin tornado Pictures: Joplin destruction

JOPLIN, Mo., - It's been a long and grueling day for Capt. Robert Daus - a member of a specially trained and equipped team of firefighters from the Maryland Heights Fire District in St. Louis.

"We are hopeful and in other cases there have been survivors, but reality is there are recovery efforts as well," he says.

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"You think you're prepared to see it but you're not," says rescuer Brian Hendricks. "There's nothing that can compare to being here and smelling it and seeing it."

Pictures: CBS News on the ground in Joplin

CBS News correspondent Don Teague followed the team as they scoured a demolished apartment complex. They searched for survivors in what were once multi-story buildings. The work started before sunrise and lasted more than 9 grueling hours.

Daus says, "It can be very dangerous. Structural problems, walls bowed out."

Joplin, Mo., search shifts to stores, apartments

As the firefighters searched by hand, across town members of a volunteer K9 team searched for 74-year-old Larry Allen, thought to be trapped in a house.

"I'm sure he's here," says Missy Epperson, of Mid-American K9 Search and Rescue. "I just don't know how to get through the voids."

Epperson leads a team of 13 volunteer rescuers and dogs from Illinois. She also searched for victims at the World Trade Center and Hurricane Katrina.

"This is Katrina without the water," Epperson says.

Even for experienced searchers, the amount of destruction here is hard to comprehend. The strike team from St. Louis found no survivors in the apartment complex.

But at the missing man's house, there were tears of joy after Larry Allen came home, wondering what all the fuss was about. It turns out wasn't trapped in the house.

"It's overwhelming to think so many people are thinking about me," Allen said. "If it'd been stuck in there I guess I would have been found by now."