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Archive for Friday, June 3, 2011

Greensburg offers advice on rebuilding to tornado victims

June 3, 2011

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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.

— Officials in the south-central Kansas town of Greensburg, which was nearly wiped out by a tornado four years ago, have some advice for other tornado-ravaged towns: Take time rebuilding.

Greensburg hosted a meeting Thursday with representatives from Tuscaloosa, Ala., and the eastern Kansas town of Reading. An April tornado killed 43 people in Tuscaloosa. Last month, a tornado hit Reading, killing one resident and destroying 200 homes.

The visitors spent two days in Greensburg this week to see how the town recovered after a May 2007 tornado destroyed most of Greensburg's infrastructure and homes and left 11 dead. The visitors have toured rebuilding projects, including Greensburg's hospital, county school and city hall.

They also heard from Greensburg city leaders who explained how they found ways to crawl out of the rubble. One recurring message was, don't rush to put things back together.

"I encourage Tuscaloosa to think long and hard before rebuilding," school superintendent Darin Headrick told The Hutchinson News. Instead of doing it quickly, think about how rebuilding might serve the community for future generations.

Kiowa County Memorial Hospital administrator Mary Sweet also said that in moving forward it was possible to be better than before the tornado. She encouraged community leaders not to spend money on old technology but to move into the future.

"Ask for help. I hate to say this," Sweet said. "But play the tornado card you have in your hand."

In a disaster it's vital to leave use all options when it comes to finding resources, said Chuck Banks, senior manager with Deloitte Financial Advisory Services. He encouraged the group to explore outside technical assistance, which has the best interest of the community at heart, and can help finance the recovery. Greensburg was unique in receiving financing from multiple sources, including foundations, the state and federal agencies.

John McConnell, Tuscaloosa's director of planning and development, agreed that rebuilding was a complex issue. People want to get businesses back up and operating and the city wants the employment. But it is a delicate balance to see, with planning, what could develop, McConnell said.

"It's human nature to want to get back to normalcy to where you were the day before the storm," McConnell said. "But we have to adjust to a new normal."

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