Jaime Oppenheimer/The Wichita Eagle
On the Road - Tornado Alley
Heading Directly Into the Heart of Tornado Country
Friday, March 28, 2008
It is just a handful of miles from Mullinsville to Greensburg, Kansas but far enough that while the former was spared, the latter had been almost totally destroyed by an EF5 tornado - the strongest possible - on May 4, 2007, not quite a year earlier.
I’ve come into Greensburg totally unprepared for what I’m about to see. The road leading up into town takes me up a slight rise. On my left is the prototypical silo rising high into the sky. Everything seems normal until I reached an intersection where Highway 400 crosses a smaller road.
By Ray Ford
The first thing I notice when I drive into Greensburg are the trees. The stumps and larger limbs are still there but all of the lesser branches have been ripped off leaving a scene that Edvard Munch might have included in his painting The Scream had he experienced the destruction here.
The second thing that hits me is the wide open space. With the exception of a building here and there, there is nothing from block to block. I’m looking straight down 10-12 city blocks and there’s nothing there.
Courtesy of the Wichita Eagle
I’ve got the Weather Channel on XM Radio and the focus is on tornadoes. While I’m looking over this scene of overwhelming destruction here, there is a tornado watch for much of the Southeast. This is the night the roof will be torn off the top of the CNN headquarters. This is extremely unsettling - there’s something about the concept of a tornado that is way more terrifying than anything I’ve experienced before, especially when they are not too far away.
When I reach what ought to be the safety of my motel a bit further down the road in Kingman, Kansas I’ve got the news on before the door’s shut. I’m wondering - where’s the basement? Knowing that there isn’t one unsettles me even further. Tonight, though, I’m lucky. The storm track is taking the storms east from Texas across upper Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. I’m safe for the moment but those in downtown Atlanta won’t be so lucky.
Courtesy of the Wichita Eagle
Not quite a year ago, about the same time of night I’m watching the weather news, residents of Greensburg had finished dinner, enjoyed dessert and perhaps watched a TV show or two when the sirens went off. For those who had been watching the storm’s progress on the Weather Channel, they could see it coming.
First, the tornado struck Sweetwater, Oklahoma, about 8:15 p.m. Saturday, causing major damage to a high school and other buildings.
The storm then continued to grind its way north through northwestern Oklahoma toward Kansas for more than 45 minutes. At KOCOl, Matt Leinbauer was reporting on damage from another confirmed tornado just east of Arnett, Oklahoma.
Tornado warnings continued throughout the night in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa. Flood warnings and watches were in place for South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska.
The weather service’s Storm Prediction Center said more than 60 tornado touchdowns had been reported on Saturday - 40 of them between 6 and 9 p.m. Central Time.