Archive for Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Greensburg under evacuation order

May 22, 2007

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— The threat of severe weather Monday prompted officials to call for the evacuation of Greensburg, a community still digging out from a deadly tornado that nearly leveled the town earlier this month.

The National Weather Service said thunderstorms over western Kansas could possibly move across Kiowa County on Monday night, with storms producing winds of 40 to 50 mph and some small hail.

The chance for severe storms is greater today and tonight, the weather service said, with large hail and wind gusts above 60 mph in the forecast. Heavy rainfall also is expected.

"The health and safety of the public is our primary concern right now," said Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, the adjutant general.

"We know that everyone would like to continue with the cleanup so Greensburg can start the rebuilding process. But if severe weather seems imminent, the prudent thing to do is stay out of Greensburg and seek shelter until it's safe to return."

Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the adjutant general, said the lack of shelter and large amounts of debris left from the May 4 tornado have officials concerned.

"There's not enough basement space in Greensburg to protect the number of people we have there - residents and workers," Watson said. "The courthouse is the sturdiest building with the biggest basement. But even if there were four or five basement buildings, that wouldn't be enough to house everyone."

She said residents should seek shelter outside of Greensburg, and out-of-town volunteers helping with the rebuilding should stay home today.

"Because of the amount of debris piled up around town, if we have strong winds, that could become a potentially dangerous situation for anyone who is in the area," Watson said. "After all the destruction that town has seen, we certainly don't want to have any more injuries or loss of life."

Ten people were killed in the Greensburg tornado.

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