At this time four years ago, I had left KWCH TV where I had done a last-minute refresher on our latest storm tracking software with a terrible feeling that something horrible was going to happen.
Merril Teller, the chief meteorologist at KWCH, had just finished broadcasting the first tornado watch of the evening which had been issued for northwest Oklahoma and western Kansas. Kathleen and I were just sitting down to dinner and I told her that there were likely going to be ‘bad’ (meaning especially violent) tornadoes this evening.
By about 8pm, the nightmare had begun — thunderstorms were exploding south of Greensburg. At 9:53, the F-5 intensity, 1.7 mile wide tornado moved across the town. Nine precious lives were lost in Greensburg, two more with later tornadoes to the northeast.
But there was a silver lining in this very dark cloud. More than 200 lives were saved by the warnings. The Kansas “can do” spirit (that, to me, is symbolized by making a swing out of a pile of rubble on a tree deformed by the tornado) has rebuilt the city into the “Greenest Town in America.” New businesses are growing and residents returning.
The new movie theatre — scheduled to open one year from today — is the latest symbol of their growth.
Congratulations, Greensburg. I know that the city has already offered its expertise to areas devastated by the April tornadoes in the South. I hope people in these areas take Greensburg up on it. They have done a great deal very well in their rebuilding.
UPDATE: The May 2011 Reader’s Digest has a great article about Greensburg. I can’t find it online to link. However, here is an article about their visit to the town last month. Worth reading!