Archive for Sunday, March 30, 2008

New Greensburg emerges in reconstruction

Kansas town breaks ground on new water tower

March 30, 2008

Advertisement


The City of Greensburg was obliterated by a tornado that struck May 4, 2007. Eleven people died, and more than 95 percent of the town's homes and businesses were destroyed. Reconstruction efforts have largely progressed, and in February the city began rebuilding its water tower.

The City of Greensburg was obliterated by a tornado that struck May 4, 2007. Eleven people died, and more than 95 percent of the town's homes and businesses were destroyed. Reconstruction efforts have largely progressed, and in February the city began rebuilding its water tower.

In late February, construction started on the city of Greensburg water tower.

It was just another feat in a year of accomplishments after the May 4, 2007, tornado that flattened this southwest Kansas town of 1,400 people.

The two-mile-wide storm with winds of 200 mph killed 11 and destroyed approximately 95 percent of Greensburg's homes and businesses. By June, insured losses were $153 million, making it one of the most destructive storms in state history.

But the effort to rebuild the town has been just as impressive as the losses, officials said.

"The attitude of the people continues to be very positive," said Mitzi Hesser, administrator of the Kiowa County Health Department.

Hesser and her husband are living in a FEMA trailer because the storm destroyed their home.

"It has just been overwhelming to see how we have pulled ourselves together," Hesser said of the community.

But she notes that with the reconstruction comes a lot of frustration.

"The process is just taking a lot of time to make sure we are doing it right," she said.

The storm's devastation attracted worldwide attention. President Bush visited, and the high school's subsequent graduation ceremony, pushed from the destroyed school building to a golf course, was televised nationally.

Residents banded together expressing a desire to rebuild their town better than before.

Earlier this year, the first downtown business reopened in a rebuilt structure. It was the Care-N-Share thrift store and food pantry. The Kiowa County Ministerial Alliance, a group of 14 churches, uses profits from the store to provide assistance to needy families.

"The first business to reopen was about caring for other people," Hesser said.

More than 100 homes are in the process of being rebuilt. New basements are being dug all over town.

Dillons has opened a combination grocery and convenience store. Its 40-year-old store had been destroyed.

A 32-unit complex for low-income seniors has been announced. It is being built with the help of state tax credits and donated land from the school district.

The school has picked a contractor to rebuild, and both the John Deere and General Motors dealerships have broken ground to rebuild.

And youths in the town have become heavily involved in civic organizations, with their elders urging them on, saying rebuilding a town might be the best education they could get.

Another ground-breaking is planned for a downtown building that will have retail space for six businesses.

And with the reconstruction has come talk of building a "green" Greensburg. There are numerous plans on the drawing board to make energy efficiency and renewable resources a mainstay of Greensburg, and Kansas University architecture students are involved in that process.

"Quite a bit is going on," said Kim Alderfer, assistant city administrator.

But Alderfer said everyone in town knows it will be a long process.

"We are hoping to regain that (pre-storm) population back in five years. A lot of our folks had to move away to be closer to their families," she said.

But Alderfer said the reconstruction of the water tower was another sign that Greensburg is rebounding.

"It's a good visual to see that going up in the air," she said.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.