Archive for Monday, May 7, 2007

Talk of rebuilding begins amid rescue

Death toll expected to hold at 10; federal disaster declared

May 7, 2007

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Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, left, talks to Jason West and his 2-year-old son, Bo, about when residents will be allowed back in to see their homes in Greensburg. A tornado destroyed about 95 percent of the town Friday night. Sebelius took a tour Sunday of downtown Greensburg and the emergency shelter in the Haviland High School gym.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, left, talks to Jason West and his 2-year-old son, Bo, about when residents will be allowed back in to see their homes in Greensburg. A tornado destroyed about 95 percent of the town Friday night. Sebelius took a tour Sunday of downtown Greensburg and the emergency shelter in the Haviland High School gym.

Inspectors survey damage Sunday in Greensburg.

Inspectors survey damage Sunday in Greensburg.

President Bush, accompanied by first lady Laura Bush, declared parts of Kansas a disaster area on Sunday, freeing up federal money to aid in recovery.

President Bush, accompanied by first lady Laura Bush, declared parts of Kansas a disaster area on Sunday, freeing up federal money to aid in recovery.

— Rescue workers dug through piles of rubble Sunday searching for anyone who might have been trapped by a tornado that obliterated this south-central Kansas town, while officials began talking about rebuilding.

At least 10 people were known dead from weekend storms. Eight of them were in the Greensburg area and two others died elsewhere in Kansas - one during the Friday night storms that hammered Greensburg and one in a second round of storms late Saturday, state officials said.

Rescue workers on Sunday used trained dogs to sniff for bodies and used their hands and heavy equipment to clear away the rubble. No one else had been found by early afternoon, and officials were hopeful the death toll wouldn't rise.

"I don't know when the search and rescue stops and cleanup begins," said Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Ronald Knoefel.

Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, the state's adjutant general, said officials did not know if anyone was missing.

"A lot of people have gone to other places and it's difficult to track them down," he said.

National Guard engineers were helping with the search, which was expected to wind down by the evening.

"Some of the rubble is just so deep," Bunting said. "That's really what our problem is."

Not enough equipment

During a tour of the town early Sunday evening, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius - who in December asked the Pentagon to replenish Kansas equipment left by the National Guard in Iraq - said the devastation in Greensburg shows why the state needs its equipment back.

"We're missing about half of our trucks from the National Guard units," Sebelius said. "Clearly trucks to haul this debris away would be enormously helpful. We are missing flatbeds. We are missing Humvees, which are used to get people to safety and security and to haul equipment around. We are missing a number of our well-trained National Guard personnel. The equipment that we continue to harp on that has been sent overseas when our troops are deployed and not restored at the same level could be enormously helpful."

Residents in flux

Greensburg remained off limits to residents Sunday, but officials said they would be allowed to return this morning to recover what they could. Residents were to be bused in and had to be out of town by 6 p.m. CDT.

Dick Hainje, regional administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the agency was bringing in travel trailers for some of the town's residents - trailers that had been ordered for people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. But it wasn't clear when people would be able to move into the trailers; debris was in the way and the town had no clean water.

While some residents wondered about the town's future, Hainje was optimistic.

"The town will be back. I have no doubt of that," he said.

Bush declares disaster

President Bush declared parts of Kansas a disaster area, freeing up federal money to aid in recovery.

"It's going to take a long time for the community to recover," Bush said Sunday, referring to Greensburg, after attending a morning service at a church in Washington. "And so we'll help in any way we can.

"There's a certain spirit in the Midwest of our country, a pioneer spirit that still exists, and I'm confident this community will be rebuilt," Bush said.

Severe weather continues

The storms in Kansas were part of a weekend of violent weather, with tornadoes also dashing across other parts of the Plains states late Saturday. And on Sunday, the National Weather Service posted several new tornado warnings for south-central Kansas.

Heavy rain also threatened the state, with the National Weather Service issuing flood warnings for many areas.

Early Sunday, an empty Union Pacific coal train derailed at Fort Riley after a trestle bridge that apparently had been weakened by high water collapsed. The engineer and conductor were taken to a hospital for observation, fort officials said.

The National Weather Service classified the tornado as an F-5, the most powerful possible. The weather service said it cut a 22-mile track, 1.7 miles wide, and had winds estimated at 205 miles per hour. The last tornado of that strength was in Oklahoma City on May 3, 1999, and killed 36 people.

Rebuilding

Greensburg Administrator Steve Hewitt, who lost his home, estimated 95 percent of the town of 1,500 was destroyed.

"I see a community coming together. I see a future here. I really do," Hewitt said.

State Rep. Dennis McKinney, the House minority leader and a Greensburg resident, said he hoped to rebuild his home in the same place.

But other residents were unsure about the town's future.

"If I hear that people are going stay and we're going to have a school, then I'll stay," said Greensburg High School shop teacher Peter Kern, who had lived in the town for the past year. "If we don't have a school, I don't have a job."

Darin Headrick, superintendent of Greensburg's public schools, said classes will be canceled for the rest of the academic year, with graduation being held elsewhere. When school resumes in August, the district, which has about 300 students, will hold classes in other communities. "Our teachers will have jobs; our kids will have classrooms to attend," he said.

95 percent gone

Among the few structures that survived was the Bar H Tavern, which was briefly converted into a morgue. Command operations for rescue efforts were moved into the town's courthouse, which was damaged but still standing. The massive concrete silos of a grain elevator still towered over what is left of the town.

All the churches were destroyed. Every business on Main Street was demolished. The town's fire engines were crushed and other crumpled vehicles were thrown around. Tree trunks stood bare, stripped of most of their branches.

The town's claim to fame - the world's biggest hand dug well - was buried under a mountain of debris. The gift store at the well had disappeared.

For decades, meteorite hunters from throughout the world have been drawn here to hunt for meteorites. The town's extensive meteorite collection, including one weighing 1,000 pounds, was one of the casualties of the storm.

Scores of injured people were sent to hospitals.

The twister was part of a storm front that spawned tornadoes in parts of Illinois, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Nebraska, though damage was minimal, officials said.

The tornadoes that came with the second round of storms late Saturday caused scattered damage to farm outbuildings and homes and downed power lines. South Dakota had at least 20 twisters, with no injuries, the weather service said.

Tornadoes late Saturday in western Oklahoma destroyed at least eight homes and injured one person, according to the state Department of Emergency Management.

"To have this many significant tornadoes is tremendously unusual," said Larry Ruthi, meteorologist in Dodge City.

















How to help

American Red CrossCall: 800-REDCROSSVisit: www.redcross.orgMail:American Red CrossP.O. Box 96456Washington, DC 20090-6456Donations can be earmarked specifically for the Greensburg disaster, but donors must specify that at the time of their donations.

Salvation ArmyCall: 800-SAL-ARMYVisit: www.salvationarmyusa.org, click donateMail:The Salvation Army National HeadquartersP.O. Box 269Alexandria, VA 22313For now, the Salvation Army is asking for only financial gifts.

Starving Artists MovingCall: 749-5073Or visit the drop-off site at Checkers, 2300 La.

Comments

jhoman 8 years ago

I have no idea what the person above is talking about. Here's some info from a CNN article:

"The governor said Kansas lacks about half the large equipment it could use for recovery efforts and debris removal, including dump trucks and front loaders. More than 20 percent of its Humvees and 15 of 19 helicopters were sent to Iraq, according to officials with the Kansas National Guard."

and

"Kansas Emergency Management spokeswoman Sharon Watson said because of the shortage of National Guard equipment, the state was rushing to hire contractors to help clear debris."

http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WEATHER/05/07/tornado.resources.reut/

ASBESTOS 8 years ago

"During a tour of the town early Sunday evening, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius - who in December asked the Pentagon to replenish Kansas equipment left by the National Guard in Iraq - said the devastation in Greensburg shows why the state needs its equipment back.

"We're missing about half of our trucks from the National Guard units," Sebelius said. "Clearly trucks to haul this debris away would be enormously helpful. We are missing flatbeds. We are missing Humvees, which are used to get people to safety and security and to haul equipment around. We are missing a number of our well-trained National Guard personnel"

BS Kathy! The Force in Kansas is 80%! Additionally, Greensburg is in FARM COUNTRY! There are thousands of flatbed trucks and dumptrucks in that area, they are usually called GRAIN TRUCKS!!! She, as Governor can requsition or seize those trucks needed and they will be there quicker as the next county over. Right before grain harvest, and most won't be harvesting anyway with so much farmground torn up.

Trying to tie this to IRAQ was STUPID! OK, she was emotionally overwhelmed, but that is no reason to "politicize" this terrible event for "Democratic Party Points"!

That was reprehensibel and totaly untrue there Kathy!!!

Buy a clue!

DUMB, DUMB, DUMB!

Very poor judgement.

DO YOUR JOB KATHY AND QUIT TRYING FOR NATIONAL POINTS AND TO DEFLECT ATTENTION

She put her Adjutant General in a very awkward spot!

dagopman 8 years ago

Here is a press release on this topic:

Press release from the National Guard.

National Guard Responds to Kansas Tornado By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2007 More than 300 members of the Kansas National Guard have been activated in response to a powerful tornado that almost destroyed the town of Greensburg, Kan., May 4. Guard members are assisting in search-and-rescue efforts in the wake of the tornado, which was classified as an F-5, the highest rating given by the National Weather Service.

The tornado wiped out much of the small town, knocking out power, water, natural gas and communications. To date, 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries have been reported.

The Kansas National Guard's 278th Sustainment Brigade has established a joint task force near the incident site. In addition to search-and-rescue efforts, the troops are working on power generation, logistical support, debris clearing, support to law enforcement, supporting establishment of shelters and distribution of food and water.

Currently, the Kansas National Guard has 88 percent of its forces available, 60 percent of its Army Guard dual-use equipment on hand, and more than 85 percent of its Air Guard equipment on hand, said Randal Noller, public affairs officer for the National Guard Bureau. Under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which is a national partnership agreement that allows state-to-state assistance during governor or federally declared emergencies, Kansas has more than 400,000 Guardsmen available to it, he pointed out. However, Kansas has not yet requested assistance from other states.

The National Guard Bureau has offered liaison, operational, communications, contracting, search-and-rescue, public affairs and community relations support, and is prepared to support the governor in any way possible, Noller said.

Godot 8 years ago

If Gov Sebelius was so concerned last December about lack of equipment, why did she not ask the legislature for funds to purchase equipment in this last session? Surely there is no law that says a state cannot purchase its own generators, flashlights, trucks, and even helicopters, is there?

Do a search on "national guard equipment replacement' and you will see there is a concerted PR campaign on the part of democrat governors to ballyhoo this equipment and personnel shortage issue. Funny how they seem to say almost exactly the same thing.

They look foolish for complaining and setting the stage to blame someone else for their not taking proactive steps to be prepared. Passive aggressive behavior does not become seomone who wants to be viewed as a leader.

countrygirl 8 years ago

And just what kind of shape do you think the farm trucks are in this part of the country? I've seen what an F-2 tornado can do to a grain truck--I can't imagine what an F-5 would have done. Greensburg wasn't the only place hit--area farms are gone too. The point the governor is trying to make is that taking guard equipment out of Kansas leaves Kansas without needed resources at a time like this. She didn't ask Bush to send more equipment, she asked the Pentagon.
Now can we quit harping on the governor and focus on what needs to be done to help our fellow Kansans?

dagopman 8 years ago

The Governor was the one that made this an issue. No one else. There are simply people calling her on her politically motivated statement of misfact.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 8 years ago

I got an email saying that Pizza Hut will donate 20% of all sales in Kansas on Thursday. Anyone know if this is true? If it is pizza would be good for supper that day.

dagopman 8 years ago

The Governor again shows her true colors as another political hack.

LawrenceBoy 8 years ago

Put your own political agendas aside and tell me why Governor Sebelius should not be concerned about the fact that Kansans have a diminished capacity to help ourselves and others. You can't. She is right to lobby for Kansans. In fact, she is the chief lobbyist for Kansas and all Kansans.

Jackalope 8 years ago

400,000 thousand guardsmen located where? Two to three days away? Just hold tight in the basement corner for two or three days, help is on its way. Get real. A very real mission of the National Guard in every state is to provide immediate and local help. Without equipment to train on or people to train with, it becomes somewhat difficult. It was difficult to do even when the units were at full strength and fully equiped. I do not care one iota what is your political bent. The simple point of fact is the both the federal armed forces and the states' national guard is depleted, without regard to why. Every major player on either side of the political isle has recognized that. So, what is the debate? People need help. Help them!!! My god, the political extremes of this world would rather argue while people are starving about whether or not they really are starving, deserve to be starving or need to be starving. Whether or not they really need help, need more help or deserve help. I just hope to heavens if and when there is a tornado in my backyard those people are taken first. That way, at least while I am dying in my basement I will not have to listen to their useless, egocentric bickering. In the meanwhile, the good folks in Greensburg are suffering immeasurable difficulties and what do you do, bicker about who is at fault. Yes, talk is cheap, but it is worthless when people need help. And worthless talk comes from worthless people.

kcredeye 8 years ago

Me thinks Governor Sebelius is attempting to ride on the coat-tails of the liberal Bush-haters! It's the popular thing to do, ya know (at least in the 'cut n run' circles).

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