What brought us to Greensburg was the World's Largest Hand Dug Well - Big Well. It was built in 1887, is 109 feet deep and 32 feet in diameter. You can walk down into it via a spiral staircase.
You can throw your money into it. Hey people. I have a hole in my backyard you can come and throw your money into.
What I didn't realize until in the visitor center was that this is THE Greensburg, Kansas; the town that was literally blown off the face of the earth on May 4, 2007 by a 1.7 mile wide (2.7 kilometers) EF5 tornado with winds in excess of 205mph (330kph). That is wider than the town itself and they don't rate tornados any higher. This fascinated me more than the Big Well.
This is the view from the observation platform at the top of the center. Every building you see is new since 2007. You can see a lot of vacant lots too.
The grain storage in the distance is part of the 5% of the town that was not totally blown away.
I talked in length to the lady at the counter who I would say was in her late 60's. She was a survivor of the event and told me of her personal experience. She said that half of the people stayed and rebuilt their homes but the odd thing was, and she didn't understand it herself, that the majority chose to do so in another place in town other than where their current lot stood.
The residents knew at least 30 minutes advance from watching television that a huge storm cell was heading their direction that evening. Her daughter called and suggested that she come over to her house as they had a basement. Mom lived in a simple duplex and thought the storm wouldn't come to Greensburg. Ten minutes later the tornado sirens began to wail and she got a call from her grandson. "Grandma, get you butt over here NOW!" She got in her car, drove the 5 blocks to her daughter's house and just barely got into the basement when the tornado slammed into Greensburg. It was 9:45pm. In 12 minutes it was all over and she, along with nearly everyone in town lost everything they owned. 11 people ages between 46 to 84 died. Most of those were "old timers" who like the lady I was talking with believed that it would never come to Greensburg. Her uncle was one of those 11 and they never found anything of his home or workshop. Not a single tool.
While she was talking with me the siren went off, noon I guess, but it scared me like no other time. The adrenalin shot through my veins. I jumped and ducked at the same time and seriously asked her "What's that? Are we okay?" She calmly just smiled and told me what it was, but I don't recall what she said. I've always wanted to see a tornado from a safe distance one day, but after this visit to Greensburg, I am fine if I never ever see one - I don't care how far I am safely away.
This is the only siren that was found. It sounded the warning till the very end, much like Gunga Din.
This is the only thing that survived from the library and every card was intact in place.
That is weird.
She told me how on the west side of town only one house was left standing. On the east side of town it was "like pick and choose". One house would be obliterated while the one next door was left standing.
The writing on the left appears to read ameri -- core. In the center is the address. To the right of the door it looks like auntie when I zoom in on it. To the right Please do chicken coop.
The lots all around and across the street were vacant.
I am not trying to be funny when I say it made me feel uncomfortable writing up this post. All those feelings I was experiencing while there, while talking with the lady, all returned as I read my notes.
People think we're crazy to live in earthquake country.
Give me an earthquake any day over a tornado or hurricane.
Our next trip will take us through the southern states. Don't think for one moment I am not doing the research when hurricane season is.