The other day, Rebecca and I were on the topic of the recent tornado that swept through Greensburg, Kansas. She said something to the effect that she heard that it was two miles wide. I could not believe that and was assured that she had her facts a little misconstrued, if not a little off. Growing up in the Midwest, I’ve been through my share of scares and seen a few funnel clouds. Haven’t seen, first hand, a lot of tornadoes on the ground, but it’s one of those things that everyone just knows about.
Shockingly, I was wrong, and she was right.
Since the tornado flattened Greensburg on Friday night, emergency responders have struggled to find out how many of its 1,600 residents may be safely staying with friends or relatives, rather than in shelters.
The massive tornado, an enhanced F-5 with wind estimated at 205 mph, was part of a weekend of violent storms that tore across the Plains and were also blamed for two other deaths in Kansas.
The death toll could have been much worse, but for a 20-minute warning – a rarely issued “tornado emergency” alert – that gave people time to take shelter in basements and storm cellars. [myway]
Look at this photo, too. When I heard the initial reports that the city was basically wiped off the face of the earth, you think that it’s just journalistic sensationalism. After reading that, I think about what it was like to go through the handful of close calls in my lifetime and how intense a storm like that could be. In fact, I couldn’t imagine.
Growing up, there was the small town Worthington, smaller than the small town I grew up in, that was hit straight on by a tornado. The trail of debris and destruction was, as I recall, was a few hundred feet wide. Basically, you could follow the exact path, and it was one of those typical scenes. What was tore to shreds in one place, the object next to it was pristine and not damaged at all. Even though we were total gawkers, checking out the destruction in our car and getting on the nerves of the National Guard who were there to clean things up, I learned exactly why you need to take tornadoes seriously.
Ever been huddled under a blanket in the corner of the basement while waves of rain, wind, and chunks of trees slam into the house above you? It was enough to have my mother start saying her last goodbyes, and I was right there with her. That wasn’t even a tornado. Microbursts[wiki] are just as hair raising, as I discovered on that one summer afternoon. Our house was spared, but within five minutes, we lost a lot of trees in our neighborhood. I did end up getting cut on my arm while helping with the cleanup, and there was no power until the next day.
It’s unbelievable to think that a tornado struck a town straight on at a width of nearly two miles wide. That is a vision of a nightmare, and I have a hard time wrapping my head around this fact. Envisioning it is scary enough. I feel for those who were affected. Even though I’ve kinda been there, what happened in Greensburg is a hundred times worse. Can only hope that they have the strength to rebuild. Rebuild an entire town, that is.