Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Greensburg revisited

I thought she was kidding.

Sandi Soendker, Land Line managing editor, told the staff at our morning news budget meeting that Greensburg, KS, had been hit by another storm, tearing down at least one wall of the town high school.

Greensburg made worldwide headlines in May 2007 when 95 percent of the city was destroyed by a rare EF-5 tornado that killed 14.

Now another storm has damaged one building that was being rebuilt. Read about it here.

I was fortunate to be sent on assignment to Greensburg in the aftermath of the 2007 tornado, where I joined photographer Greg Holmes and radio reporter Patsy Terrell, two veteran Kansas journalists.

The town’s ties to trucking were intriguing. Greensburg’s proximity to U.S. 54, a major trucking route linking Kansas to New Mexico and the West Coast, as well as I-35, made it an attractive hometown for many trucking families.

We spent two days interviewing several OOIDA members and townspeople, all amid flattened houses, yards scrubbed clean of grass and strange sights such as a two-by-four lodged halfway into the body of an old car.

Greg and I may have violated some military rules when we snuck across town to see President Bush up close and got to meet the late Tony Snow, former television journalist and then press secretary.

But back to the point: The tornado’s carnage knew few bounds.

Looking through pictures of the town’s massive rebuilding efforts, I was struck by a stark contrast.

See the difference between Greg’s pictures, available here and recent shots of futuristic city and school buildings and homes, seen here?

However, centuries of improvement in engineering, materials and knowledge still don’t beat Mother Nature.