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Archive for Thursday, May 10, 2007

President promises federal aid

Bush tours tornado-ravaged town

President Bush comforts residents as he surveys damage Wednesday in Greensburg. A tornado, with wind estimated at 205 mph, destroyed about 95 percent of the Kansas farming town on Friday. U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., is at left.

President Bush comforts residents as he surveys damage Wednesday in Greensburg. A tornado, with wind estimated at 205 mph, destroyed about 95 percent of the Kansas farming town on Friday. U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., is at left.

May 10, 2007

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Bush and Sebelius at odds over federal response to Greensburg

The White House is calling the federal response to the Greensburg tornado a success story - this statement comes one day after Governor Sebelius said federal response to the city has been slowed because needed manpower and equipment is in Iraq. Enlarge video

The Marine One helicopter, carrying President Bush, flies over the ruins of Greensburg Wednesday. Bush offered his condolences and federal assistance to tornado survivors.

The Marine One helicopter, carrying President Bush, flies over the ruins of Greensburg Wednesday. Bush offered his condolences and federal assistance to tornado survivors.

How towns with killer tornadoes have fared

¢ May 3, 1999: Moore, Okla., suburb of Oklahoma City; at least two dead; more than 8,000 homes destroyed or damaged; more than $1 billion in damage.

Population in 1999: 45,431

Population today: almost 48,000

¢ June 8, 1984: Barneveld, Wis.; nine dead, 200 injured; 80 homes destroyed.

Population 1980: 579

Population today: 1,150

¢ April 10, 1979: Wichita Falls, Texas; 42 killed, 1,740 injured; more than 7,000 homes destroyed and more than $800 million in damage in 2007 dollars.

Population 1970: 96,265

Population today: almost 100,000

¢ April 3, 1974: Xenia, Ohio, suburb of Dayton; 34 dead, 1,150 injured; 300 homes destroyed and 2,100 homes damaged; one of the costliest tornadoes on record, $1.6 billion in 2007 dollars.

Population 1970: 25,373

Population today: more than 23,000

¢ May 25, 1955: Udall, Kan.; 77 dead, 270 injured. One survivor told AP on the tornado's 25th anniversary: "We had no choice but to rebuild - we had nowhere else to go."

Population 1950: 410

Population today: 766

¢ April 11, 1965: Russiaville, Ind.; 25 killed, 90 percent of town destroyed.

Population 1960: 1,064

Population today: almost 1,200

¢ June 8, 1953: Flint, Mich.; 115 killed, 844 injured.

Population 1960: 196,940

Population today: almost 120,000

¢ May 11, 1953: Waco, Texas; 115 dead, more than 600 injured, about 400 buildings damaged beyond repair, $50 million in damage.

Population 1950: 82,648

Population today: more than 120,000

¢ April 9, 1947: Woodward, Okla.; 107 dead; 100 city blocks and 1,000 homes damaged or destroyed, $54 million of damage in 2007 dollars.

Population 1940: 5,406

Population today: almost 12,000

Sources: The Associated Press, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Census.

— President Bush sought to lift spirits Wednesday in the wake of a killer tornado, dishing out hugs while stepping through the rubble of what had been a close-knit town of 1,400.

The president said he came to Kansas to tour the wreckage in the hopes that he could "touch somebody's soul by representing our country."

"A lot of us have seen the pictures about what happened here and pictures don't do it justice," said Bush, standing in the street in front of a brick one-story home that now has no roof. "There is a lot of destruction. Fortunately, a lot of folks had basements here in this part of the world and lived to see another day. Unfortunately, too many died," he said.

On a day that alternated between rain and sun, Bush got his first look from a helicopter that hovered over the ruins of the southwest Kansas town that was flattened last Friday night. The twister killed at least 11 people. It was the most punishing tornado to hit the United States in years.

On a short ride into town after his aerial tour, Bush got a rundown of the damage and the recovery from city administrator Steve Hewitt and Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. She and the White House had a spat a day ago - apparently now resolved - over whether National Guard deployments to Iraq had hampered the government's ability to respond here.

The president then went by foot down streets now little more than a snarled mess of mud, wood, glass and wires. Roaring at up to 205 mph and spanning 1.7 miles, the twister destroyed an estimated 95 percent of the town. Gone are almost every building, including churches, the city hall and the hospital.

Bush already had ordered emergency aid for the people, business and governments in the Greensburg area. His trip was about delivering something else: presidential empathy.

More responsive

The White House has sought a much more aggressive and engaged reaction to disasters since Hurricane Katrina, when a bungled response became a turning point in Bush's presidency.

At one point, Bush stopped at a tractor dealership, the building gutted and its expensive plows mangled. It had been a major employer in town, and the president freely dished out hugs.

The surrounding neighborhood revealed a car stuck tail-first out of the top of a house. Trees were ripped of all limbs, looking like mere stakes in the ground. A spray-painted sign said politely: "Please pardon our mess."

The president ambled down the road to a house with no roof, almost slipping as he picked his way across a chunk of metal on the lawn. He briefly grabbed a chain saw, ripping it into action for the cameras and other media that accompanied him.

"How are you all?" Bush asked as he moved among residents. "Stylish looking hat," he joked to a man in a green fedora.

The president spent about 20 minutes at a second house, where he posed for photos and listened to survivors. It was there that he addressed reporters for his only public words of the day. For his backdrop, a yellow crane in the home's driveway suspended an American flag while the trees in the front lawn had metal and plastic debris - including a giant upside-down tool box - wedged into what remained of their branches.

He offered prayers, condolences, praise and offers of aid.

"Whatever help is in the law (will) be here as quickly as possible," Bush said. "While there was a dark day in the past, there's brighter days ahead."

The homeowner, Kaye Hardinger, said people in the town appreciated the president's visit.

"It let us know he cared about us," she said.

She said she told Bush she would have "invited him in for a cup of coffee, but I didn't have time to dust."

'There will be money'

The president's last stop before returning to Washington was at a makeshift command center for another briefing on the recovery efforts.

Greensburg has been known for its friendly charm, right down to the old-fashioned soda fountain at the drug store. The town's proud claim to fame is the Big Well, considered the largest in the world to be dug by hand. Now the fountain is gone, the well buried in debris.

Though some locals said it was too early and too raw to feel confident about rebuilding, officials from Sebelius down to Mayor Lonnie McCollom said it would happen, with replacing the employment base the key.

"There will be money," the governor said. "These are resilient people ... We have an opportunity to rebuild a real American town."

Despite the tragedy, emergency officials know the death toll could have been much worse. An emergency warning about 20 minutes before the tornado hit helped people scramble to safety.

This is the third time in three months that Bush has played the role of national healer.

He comforted survivors of tornadoes that ripped through Alabama and Georgia in March, and offered words of hope at Virginia Tech after a gunman killed 32 people and himself in April.

Comments

prioress 7 years, 7 months ago

It was painful listening to the pres trying to spit out a full sentence while visiting Greensburg. They shouldn't let him out alone or without some cue cards.

Viktoria 7 years, 7 months ago

I have been a resident of Greensburg for over 37 years. I am now staying with my daughter's family in Kinsley after losing all of my home. I lived off of Main Street. All that is left are steal beams, splintered wood, glass, and dirt. I was able to salvage only a handful of things (and I literally mean only a handful)

I was very grateful for the President's visit. It was not in the list bit painful watching him "try to spit out full sentences". He spoke very well and was very comforting to those of us who have lost so much. What is painful is watching our own governor using our painful situation for her own political gain. She needs to step off her soap box and get things done! Watching her walk the streets of what was once our beautiful little town) makes me sick. She hasn't tried to help any of us at all, she walks the streets with her "crew" giving interviews to reporters and doesn't even speak to any of the residents. At least Bush was decent enough to do that. The Governor doesn't talk to us, she talks AT us.

bearded_gnome 7 years, 7 months ago

thanks for visiting us victoria! I'm very concerned for your loss and that of your community. it truly is sad that you also have to be made into political shills by the governor too.

I'm glad you were comforted by the president's visit. I was proud of him and he spoke well. too bad some have bush derangement syndrome and just foam at the mouth whenever they hear or see him. it is they who have trouble spitting out a coherent sentence.

oh, did you like that ten thousand died in your town by barry o'bama shilling too?

50YearResident 7 years, 7 months ago

Another "Photo Opp" for Bush just like the ones he did when New Orleans flooded. A kiss on the forehead of a resident is for Bush's approval ratings.

Confrontation 7 years, 7 months ago

"President Bush sought to lift spirits Wednesday"

Isn't he always trying to lift spirits? Sending young people (although not his own two daughters) to die in Iraq is quite lifting. Such a thoughtful and caring man....right?

"What is painful is watching our own governor using our painful situation for her own political gain."

Obviously a Republican. Crawl out of your hand dug well and realize that Bush only visited you for political gain. Seriously, he doesn't really care about you or your town. You don't donate enough money or have your hands in the oil business.

shirinisb 7 years, 7 months ago

This president has promised many things. His promises have only brought on death and destruction for entire nations.

Giving mone to 1,500 people in rural Kansas isn't going to pay off his goodwill debt.

Kontum1972 7 years, 7 months ago

Viktoria, your entitled to your opinion, he was there to photo-opp because he blew-off NEW ORLEANS and its still blown off...just kissin up! They will probably send the pic of the lady he is kissing to Pakistan to win votes, he could give a darn about any of us..another "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" sign will be hung up. I just lost a good friend in iraq a few days ago and he left behind his wife and kids, you make me sick, how many of your kids have u ever given to a war..i was 19 when i went in 1971-73. Make sure u read whatever document they want u to sign when you go for your Federal Relief and if u cant understand it obtain a copy and have an attorney read it. You dont get something for nothing under this administration's rule.

BigDog 7 years, 7 months ago

It is too bad some people are so hate-filled and driven by their own agenda ..... which is to bash the President and praise the Governor (like she wasn't there just for a photo-op).

In the mean time they forget the people of Greensburg and all that small community has gone through. I would imagine if you've been a resident of a town like Greensburg very long (population 1,600), you know most everyone in the town who died as well as those who have lost everything. These people have gone through enough, can we take the focus off the politics and focus on the people?

TheHeartlessBureaucrat 7 years, 7 months ago

Not only does she have the right to her opinion, she also has the right to take comfort in whatever entity she choses to.

However, I've always marveled in the ability of persons in crisis to even think politics like in these comments. A friend's coffee shop was wiped out in the 93 flood so myself and many others went to help them dig out. Mayor Emmanuel Cleaver (sp?) showed up and did a press conference a few yards away and someone said, "Y'wanna go see him?"

"Does he have a shovel?"

"No. " was the response.

"Nope...got nuthin' to say." and I kept shoveling.

(note...he actually did help move debris during his tour...this comment was not to slag on him)

Yrs,

THB

MyName 7 years, 7 months ago

I don't understand why people are picking one politician over the other, they're both there for "photo ops". The cleanup, as always, will be done by the real people. That's what the government is for in this situation: a way of letting real people help one another in a time of need. That being said, it would look far worse for both politicians if they just stayed home. Or, as a poet once said, "you can't please all of the people, all of the time."

Linda Endicott 7 years, 7 months ago

Actually, I think the line was "you can't fool all of the people all of the time"...

But I suppose the concept is the same...

They were both there for political gain, and for photo-ops...next question...

coastiej 7 years, 7 months ago

Leave it up to Sebelius to turn this tradgedy into a political platform by bringing up the Iraq war. God bless my fellow brothers and sisters in arms in the Army N.Guard and everyone who helps out with this situation.

Ooohray!

Coast Guard J

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