The May 4, 2007, Greensburg, Kansas, Tornado

Just before 10:00PM the night of Friday, May 4th, 2007, the town of Greensburg, Kansas, was virtually wiped out by a devastating tornado.  Dave visited the ruined city 1 week later.

The Greensburg tornado developed in Northern Comanche County, KS, about 9:30PM.  Dave and Meteorologist Andrew Kozak, who now is very successful in the Tulsa, OK, market, were in continuous coverage on KSNC TV (Great Bend, KS) and KSNG TV (Garden City, KS) urging residents of Kiowa County to take cover.  The storm appeared to be headed right for Greensburg, the largest city in Kiowa County.  Dave and Andrew were horrified as they watched the NEXRAD Doppler Radar and saw the storm develop a massive "hook echo," and a large and vivid rotation signature in the wind display ("velocities").  A "tornado emergency" was declared by the Dodge City office of the National Weather Service--a last ditch attempt to get residents of Greensburg to take tornado precautions.  The tornado blasted into the town at 9:51PM.  At a phenomenal 1.4-1.7 miles wide, the tornado essentially wiped Greensburg off the map.

Some still images of KSN's coverage have been added at the beginning of this album, showing how Dave and Andrew Kozak tracked the storm.

Amazingly--especially when you see the images of destruction--the 20 minutes of warning and the timely "tornado emergency" statement combined to keep the death toll relatively low.  As of this writing, 11 people have died as a result of the tornado.  Compare this to the very similar tornado that destroyed Udall, KS, in 1955 with the loss of nearly 80 lives and you can see things could have been much worse.

Dave took these pictures when he visited Greensburg one week after the tornado, to report on KSN News and co-host the telethon for disaster relief.  The scenes you see here are almost all just as the tornado left things.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the residents of Greensburg as they continue to rebuild their community.

Click on each picture to view it full screen, then click Back to return to this page.

 

At this point, the tornado is nearing Greensburg, and the "Tornado Emergency" has been declared by the National Weather Service.

Dave uses the Neighborhood Stormcaster to "tellustrate" the wind field around the monster tornado.

Dave shows the "Doppler" part of the NEXRAD radar--the winds.  Cool colors are moving toward the Dodge City NEXRAD Doppler Radar, off screen to the left.  Warm colors are rushing away. On the air, Dave said that the last time he had seen this kind of signature was May 3, 1999, as the Haysville tornado struck. Sadly, this prediction turned out to be true and then some for Greensburg.

Dave makes one last plea to Greensburg residents to take shelter.  At this moment, most of the City of Greensburg was disappearing.

Arriving to a scene of incredible destruction.

It is believed that smaller rotations within the larger tornado cause different wind speeds over short distances. The back of this building is leveled while the front stayed standing.

Notice the brick literally peeled away from the building.

Residents of this house went to the basement when the sirens sounded at about 9:30PM.

This what they found when the emerged.

The city is filled with many examples of why you should NOT stay in a car during a tornado.

This old and large tree was no match for the tornado. Not only is it broken and twisted, the bark has been removed and the wood sandblasted to a fine finish.

Another example of how some buildings fared better than others.

This pile of rubble was a large, older commercial building. The sign requests no bull dozer--until the insurance adjusters have seen it and owners have picked through the rubble to salvage what they can.

This house stayed standing somehow--but it was gutted. Notice the projectiles embedded in the roof.

Site of the famous "World's Largest Hand Dug Well." The town's water tower is collapsed on top of the site.  The well itself is fenced off on the left side of the picture to keep folks from falling in.

This house was picked up and dropped almost in one piece across the street.

In the finest Kansas tradition, and seeking solace in humour, the ruby red slippers are under the house.

The house used to be here.

A pickup truck is wrapped around a tree.

The elementary school doesn't look to bad....

...until you look in the hallway where students are sent in tornado drills.  This is a troubling picture.

But staying in the classroom would have been much worse.

The entrance to Greensburg High School.

The other end of the high school showing a second floor classroom collapsing. Notice these are not thin walls--at least 3 bricks wide but still no match for the tornado.

A look in the window of the auditorium reminds you why you should NOT take shelter in a room with a large, poorly supported roof.

Another troubling shot. Notice the house is picked up, moved off the foundation and dropped into the basement. When taking shelter, there is no perfect place. But the best is in the center of the basement under something sturdy.

About 5000 reasons why you get under something sturdy in the basement.

One of the many "Hand of God" stories.  See the massive concrete pillars in the middle of the basement? They came crashing down on either side of the people huddling in the basement, narrowly missing them.

Did we mention you should NOT stay in your car during a tornado?

Inside the hotel room. Notice the advantage of going to the small room--the bathroom.  There is less roof to collapse on you. Also, you can see the advantage to covering up with a mattress, blanket, etc.

The pretty and historic downtown was virtually destroyed.

This was the location for Dave's reports from Greensburg.

The stunning breadth of the destruction is hard to imagine, or capture in pictures. As far as the eye could see...broken houses, twisted trees...piles of rubble.

The tornado pushed a refrigerator or freezer through the windshield of this pickup truck.

A mattress wrapped around a broken tree, above a ruined house.

Another house that somehow remains standing in spite of being gutted by the tornado.

Somehow parts of this house remain standing.

The bed frame remains in place and the broken dresser mirror provides an eerie reflection of broken trees.

Another vivid reminder of why you go to the center of the basement and get under something sturdy. This basement is filled with debris.

The good old fashioned "fraidy hole" behind the house.

What's left of the house.

And the neighbor's house is no better....

Behind Dave, a sign of the spirit of the people of Greensburg.

Trying to convey the determination and spirit of the people of this torn city.

An old church had been converted into a beautiful home.  But no more...

The skyline of Greensburg  on Day 7.

If these trucks had been occupied, all would have died.

The star spangled banner flies over a battle scene of a different kind.

The end of Day 7 provided a striking contrast between the beautiful sunset and wrecked homes.

This era of Greensburg's history ends in tragedy and destruction. But the residents vow to rebuild the city into a dream community.

Dave continues to wish the residents of Greensburg all the best as they rebuild their town. Learn more here about their remarkable efforts.

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