Saturday, May 05, 2007

Greensburg Kansas Tornado Part 5

Requests for information on the Greensburg Kansas tornado have slowed down, but are continuing. I will share what else I've learned since my last post. I am just trying to summarize what I'm learning from media outlets.

The tornado that hit Greensburg last night was more than a mile wide at times. It covered 26 miles, from south of Greensburg to Holyrood. (That's pronounced "holly-rude" - like the Christmas plant and people who are not nice.) Nine are confirmed dead and dozens injured. Most injuries reported by the Pratt hospital where the majority of the injured were taken were mostly lacerations, bruises and things of that nature - ranging from mild to severe.

Search and rescue was called off for the night late this afternoon. Officials have made multiple searches to look for people, but simply have to rest. Many of the people there arrived in the wee hours of the morning when the tornado hit and have been onsite for many hours. News reporters are saying there are still rescue vehicles with search lights heading into Greensburg, so obviously some work is continuing, although search will officially resume at 8 a.m.

Greensburg was evacuated last night and one of the problems has been that many people are staying with family or friends and there's no record of where they are. Officials are trying to account for everyone. Some residents have written "OK" on the side of their houses to let people know they're safe.

Power is still off and will remain off for the near future. The water tower is down, so in order to live there again some serious changes will have to be made. Town officials are concerned about the future of the town, given the extent of the damage. But historically, towns rebuild after such things. It's just a bit overwhelming initially.

I've heard estimates as high as 95% but the National Guard is saying 90% of the town is gone. Still standing are a grain elevator and the courthouse. The building near The Big Well, Greensburg's tourist attraction, was destroyed. Because the well itself is mostly underground I'm assuming it is fine.

There is a curfew of 8-8 in effect. Officials are worried about looting and will arrest anyone in Greensburg when the curfew is in effect. The media was given an opportunity to tour the damage late this afternoon and were told that would be their last chance for the day.

Many survivors are at the Red Cross Shelter in Haviland, about 10 miles away from Greensburg. One survivor there said in an interview, "Our souls are broke, but we are still here, we're alive, and I thank God for that."

Shelters include:
Barclay College
Mullinville High School
Haviland High School

Lakewood Senior Center in Wichita has 22 beds available for people who have been displaced by the Greensburg tornado. Call 316-722-6916 for more information on that.

Greensburg was the most severely hit, but there was other damage last night including two houses destroyed in Macksville and some trees down in Ellinwood.

President Bush has declared Kiowa county (where Greensburg is) a disaster area. FEMA is scheduled to arrive tomorrow morning. Governor Sebelius will tour the area tomorrow. Rep. Moran, Sen. Tiahart and Sen. Roberts were all there today.

The Greensburg tornado is being compared to the May 25, 1955 tornado that hit Udall, Kansas and killed 87 while destroying the town, much as this one destroyed Greensburg. The death toll in Udall amounted to about 20% of the population - about half the families lost one or more members. Fortunately, Greensburg had 30 minutes to prepare whereas Udall had no warning. That warning makes all the difference in the death toll. The Udall tornado inspired some changes in how people are warned of impending weather.

I've heard conflicting reports all day long of the population in Greensburg. So, I looked up the census data. In 2000, the population was 1,574, with 887 housing units. Of course, that doesn't tell us the current population, but I've heard everything from 1400 to 1800.

Today 11 counties in Kansas have had tornadoes, including some of the same areas that were affected last night. Storms are continuing as I write this.


Zoe Brain said...

Aerial Photos of the devastation.

My thoughts are with everyone in the area. I wish the news was better.

Patsy Terrell said...

We have more storms today but at least there's in a different area.