This time last year, I was on a trip down in Kansas and took a detour which took me far off into sparsely populated western half of Kansas. After a several hour drive west out of Wichita I was nearing the town I meant to see.
Greensburg, Kansas seems to be an unassuming little town, much like the others I passed through on my way. Yet something seemed different, there were more windmills around the town, all the buildings seemed to be built around the same time. There is a good reason for this.
On the evening of May 4, 2007, the town was devastated by an EF-5 tornado which leveled at least 95 percent of the town, and killed 11 people.
The storm which produced the tornado formed around 5 p.m. in the Texas Panhandle, by 8:35 p.m. the first tornado had touched down in Kansas.
The EF-5 which would hit Greensburg formed at 9:20 p.m. What made this tornado so dangerous was how late in the day it formed. The only indication a tornado was present to the eye was when lightning back lit it.
A tornado emergency, and unofficial tool indicating the highest tornado threat, was issued at 9:41 p.m. and tornado sirens sounded 26 minutes before the arrival of the tornado.
The tornado last for 65 minutes, was nearly 1.7 miles wide and the strongest winds clocked in around 205 MPH.
In short, the town was nearly leveled by the tornado, 961 homes and businesses were completely destroyed. Around 800,000 cubic yards of debris was removed from the town. It took 40,000 truck loads to clear the town.
What struck me was I stood in the middle of town in June, 2018 was how isolated the town was. The tornado could have missed the town and hit nothing but open country miles to it's east and west, but the damage track showed this tornado, one of the most powerful and devastating since the 1999 Bridge Creek-Moore tornado, seemed to take aim at the town.
There were noticeable empty lots in the town, whole blocks featured no new construction, only square marks in the grass betrayed there was ever buildings standing.
As a storm chaser it was a humbling experience, I never want to see tornadoes impact towns, or people's homes or property. The thing is, you cannot negotiate with the weather.
I was also encouraged by Greensburg's story, the people of the town rebuilt. They now market themselves as the model "green town," their hospital, city hall and schools being built to the highest environmental energy standards.