Three Important News Stories from Kansas

Here are four stories that I believe are worth bringing to you.

Moving the federal animal disease research lab for the Department of Homeland Security from New York to Kansas. There are pros and cons about the move as the article states. If the building is sufficiently hardened (the current building in NY is not), then I’m fine with the move. I am struck by the fact the federal government has spent between $30,000,000 and $40,000,000 on site selection alone. I don’t even know how that is possible! What a waste of our dollars. 

In 2012, Kansas will be #1 in new wind power construction. I wish I thought that was a good thing. 

The new tornado and “world’s largest hand-dug well” museum in Greensburg is coming along nicely. Unfortunately, they do not expect to have it finished by May 4, which is the fifth anniversary of the devastating F-5 tornado. Hopefully, it will be done by the Memorial Day weekend. 

Congratulations, Greensburg…

…on two milestones in its recovery and regrowth after the devastating 2007 tornado.

New Business
According to today’s Wichita Eagle, HIB-Systems of Meissenheim, Germany will open a 10,000 sq. ft. plant by the 5th anniversary of the tornado in May. The plant will create 27 new jobs.

Historical Museum and Library

The Kiowa Co. Historical Museum and County Library will open in the new Commons Building.  More from the Dodge City Globe. The reopening will be this afternoon.

Greensburg has become a gem of a small town. If you are in southern Kansas, I encourage you to pay them a visit. You’ll be impressed.

Another Milestone for Greensburg

Construction begins today on the new museum in Greensburg for their attraction, “the world’s largest hand-dug well.” Only the new museum will feature information about the tornado that destroyed the original.

Details from the Dodge City Daily Globe. 

Congratulations, Greensburg!!

El Dorado and Greensburg Remember

In 1958, El Dorado, Kansas, was hit by a major tornado. Thirteen were killed. The tornado took an unusual, for a Kansas F-4 intensity tornado, southeast path. People from Greensburg were among the first to respond to El Dorado’s crisis.

In 2007, Greensburg had its own F-5 tornado. El Dorado promptly sent its municipal utility crews to Greensburg as a way of repaying them for their work in 1958.

“El Dorado Times” photo

To commemorate the bond between the two cities, El Dorado dedicated a plaque that they have added to their city’s tornado memorial. I was asked to be the guest speaker.

“El Dorado Times” photo

I told the large crowd that there was something that the two cities had in common besides the tornadoes themselves and that was Doppler radar.

In 1957, the Weather Bureau put an experimental Doppler radar in at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport. That radar made the very first-ever detection and measurement of the El Dorado tornado, thus proving the value of Doppler radar for tornado warnings.

While it would take 35 years, a network of Doppler radars was installed across the United States from 1991 to 1996. The Dodge City Doppler would play a crucial role in warning Greensburg in 2007. While earlier the hook echo (non-Doppler) tornado signature was present, it briefly disappeared about twenty minutes before Greensburg was hit.

9:33pm May 4, 2007. The hook echo folded into the body of the supercell thunderstorm
before redeveloping as the tornado approached Greensburg. 

Had the Doppler wind display not shown rotational shear differences of 200 mph (a very strong tornado signature) it is very possible that meteorologists could have deemphasized the threat or even prematurely canceled the warning. Fortunately, meteorologists kept emphasizing the danger and the Greensburg tornado was a triumph of storm warning science.

I would like to thank the El Dorado Rotary Club, Mayor McKibban, and the people of El Dorado for the invitation. I was honored to participate!

The full story of the event is available here.

Tuscaloosa Visits Greensburg

Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows I’m a huge fan of Greensburg, Kansas. After the town was – literally – destroyed by a giant F-5 tornado May 4, 2007, they have done a marvelous job of rebuilding.

Now, Greensburg is helping other towns hit so hard by tornadoes this year. Way to go, Greensburg!

The Long-Delayed Storm Chase Post

Things didn’t work out quite the way I had hoped on several levels…

The Weather

The storms I was predicting didn’t materialize as I predicted. There was one storm in our target area that looked promising. We (blue symbol) thought we would be able to intercept it north of Dodge City.

We got to the target area but the storm fell apart rather than intensifying.

The other storms started falling apart.

So, we decided to make the best of it.

The Attractions

McD’s is really pushing their new frozen strawberry lemonades.

And, we stopped to look at one of Kansas’ quirky roadside attractions.

Had dinner in Greensburg and toured the amazing town before heading back to Wichita. Even though I was tired when I got home at midnight, I wanted to get this posted since it was delayed. Well, wouldn’t you know…  Google’s Blogger system was down.

So, sorry for the delay. We’ll try it again this spring and, hopefully, I’ll do a better job of forecasting.

4th Anniversary of the Greensburg Tornado Tonight

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!

Report on "Tornado Day" at the Kansas Cosmosphere

This past Monday, the Kansas Cosmosphere hosted the Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV) from Discovery’s Storm Chasers television show. The TIV visited because the Cosmosphere is showing the new movie “Tornado Alley” in its IMAX theatre. I gave the movie a very favorable review here. A number of people got to take rides in the TIV.

At 4pm, nearly 100 people came in to watch me present Miracle at Greensburg– the story of how weather science saved more than 200 lives that horrible Friday evening.

Comsosphere CEO Chris Orwoll was kind enough to introduce me and to tell everyone how much he was enjoying reading my book, Warnings. 

I then made my presentation, took questions and answers for nearly a half hour, and then signed copies of my book. While we sold a large number of books, there are a few left in the Cosmosphere’s book store and those copies are signed.

I had a wonderful time with a great audience. I also want to thank my friend Katherine Bay who simply came up to watch the presentation and got pressed into service taking the pictures.  Thanks again, Katie!
She is a great photographer and her web site is here.

Congratulations Greensburg

Greensburg continues to rack up the honors for its recovery from the May 4, 2007 F-5 tornado that destroyed the city.

This honor comes from the United Nations:

NEW YORK — The city of Greensburg has been honored with the Global Green City award from the United Nations.
The award was presented Friday at the Global Forum on Human Settlements held at the U.N. headquarters in New York. It was presented by Lu Haifeng, secretary general of the forum.

Greensburg officials were invited to the conference to make presentations about helping communities plan for energy conservation. Mayor Bob Dixson accepted the award on behalf of Greensburg.

It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving town!

Greensburg Update

The concept drawings for the museum to commemorate the tornado and the World’s Largest Hand Dug Well (a quirky attraction I wrote about in Warnings) are out. Here is the aerial view:

Based on the drawings, I really like the design which is suggestive of the tornado’s winds and the large skylight will allow a great deal of natural light, in keeping with the “green” building effort.

The full set of concept drawings are here.

How is Greensburg Doing?

Three and a half years after the devastating tornado, things are coming along quite well. You can find a new video of the town’s progress here * (scroll down).

The best way you can help the town is to patronize the city’s businesses when you are in the area. If your Christmas-New Year’s travels take you through on U.S. 54, consider staying in their brand new Best Western Plus. A BW “Plus” is equivalent to a Courtyard by Marriott or Hilton Garden Inn, so I am sure it is very nice.

You can stop in to the Green Bean Coffee Co. for a great cup of coffee or other drink or snack and stock up on gas and supplies at the Dillons store.

I’m certain they’d appreciate your business and you’ll meet some exceptionally nice people!

* The tornado depicted in the video is an artist conception. The actual tornado was far larger (1.7 miles wide) and occurred at night. 

Greensburg — The New School Opens

Built with recycled plastic and wood reclaimed from the damage of Hurricane Katrina, Greensburg’s “green” high school opens this week. Another step in the town’s remarkable recovery.

UPDATE:  More from KAKE TV.

UPDATE II:  Details here

Greensburg — An Amazing Transformation

Just 37 months ago, May 4, 2007, the town of Greensburg, Kansas, was destroyed by one of the most violent tornadoes in history. I document the Greensburg tornado in Warnings. Larry Schwarm kindly allowed me to use his photo of the utter devastation taken the next day.

The focus of Warnings is how the storm warning system saves lives. In Greensburg, more than 200 lives were saved by the warnings and because the citizens responded appropriately.  Seasoned reporters and emergency response professionals openly wept when they saw the damage. 
 Mayor Bob Hixon told me the warnings not only saved the lives, “they saved the town.”
And, what a town it is becoming. In a farsighted commitment to rebuild “green,” Greensburg has a beautiful new main street and many attractive and functional buildings. 
The new city hall…
The new hospital…
The “5-4-7 Art Center” with a tornado-mangled tree in the foreground. 
These are just a tiny sample. Please visit Greensburg if you are in southern Kansas and see for yourself. I think you will be very impressed at how this town has risen from the rubble.

Visit to Greensburg

Kari Kyle and her staff at the Green Bean Coffee Shop in Greensburg were great hosts for the book signing yesterday evening.

Greensburg is transforming itself into a gem of a town and I’ll post some photos later today or tomorrow.

Today is the Third Anniversary of the Greensburg Tornado

Aaron Barnhart of The Kansas City Star has coverage here. The meteorological profession saved 230 lives that horrible evening. Congratulations, Greensburg, on all you have accomplished since then!

Photo by Dick McGowan.
UPDATE: Additonal coverage from Stan Finger at The Wichita Eagle here.
Photos from the rebuilt Greensburg here