Shattered trees and the grain elevator: about all that's left in Greensburg. . .
Westward from Hutchinson, Kansas, the small towns astride the old Rock Island railroad line appear in the distance, one by one: first, as tall white concrete grain elevator, then, a couple of miles out, as green oasis of shade trees spread out as relief of the endless wheatfields--Arlington, Preston, Pratt, Haviland. . . .a sucession of towns all pretty the same: sturdy frame houses laid out on a north-south grid of streets, the railroad dividing the town, a small business district, and large, stately hardwood trees. Maybe an hour west of Hutchinson, one approaches Greensburg--it's hard not to anticipate the place, the yellow and black advertising the town's "World's Largest Hand-Dug Well And Pallasite Meteorite" thick along US54. But as you approach where the map says Greensburg should be, something isn't right. The white grain elevator grows in the distance, all right, but the usual greenery of trees seems to be missing. Then you realize, as you enter the town's outskirts,the maginitude of the F-5 tornado of May 4, 2007 that leveled nearly 95% of the town.
These folks are staying. . .
There isn't much left in Greensburg. The stately old trees are snapped and denuded of branches. Once-quiet rural streets are virtually abandoned, the foundations of homes and scattered bricks about all that is left. A self-service gas station is back in business at the town's only four-way intersection; just west of there, a series of tents serve as a makeshift hospital. South of town is a small village of trailer homes and travel trailers, the temporary homes of displaced residents and the tradesman intent on rebuilding this town of around 1500 on the Kansas prairie.
The Well, as it used to appear. . .
and as it is today. . .
Monster storms are just part of life in the midwest. Like drought, heat, and winter ice storms, tornadoes are one part heroic legend that grew up of settlers in the midwest vs. nature. Apparently, this is a fact not taken lightly by its residents, given the large number of backyard storm sheters. The toughness and pioneer spirit to stick it out on a piece of the praire no matter what nature sends their way is still evident in Greensburg, which intends to rebuild. It'll be decades before the scars of May 4 soften, but I don't doubt the residents who elect to stick around will be successful in their efforts. I look forward to coming back some day and having a chance to climb down that large hand-dug well and marvel at the Pallasite Meteorite.
I encourage you to donate to the Greensburg Rebuilding Fund, care of Greensburg State Bank P. O. Box 787 Greensburg, Kansas 67054.