Last night, a tornado ranging between one and two miles wide swept through Greensburg, Kansas, destroying 90% of the town.
The town is most famous for the World’s Largest Hand-Dug Well. That tourist attraction, as well as a 1,000 meteorite displayed nearby, is the envy of neighboring towns, as readers may recall from last year’s discussion of the meteorite festival in neighboring Haviland. The giant meteorite, and other record-breaking pallasite meteorites were found around Haviland, which is now hosting people whose homes were destroyed, like Job’s, by a voice from the whirlwind.
Google Earth (image below the fold) shows a small town surrounded by fields and the characteristic circles of center pivot irrigation. The streets of Greensburg are optimistically named after the trees common in the eastern states that contributed the early settlers of the area. Trees don’t do especially well in the dry, windy heat of southwestern Kansas. Wheat and grasses for cattle do well enough to sustain the 1500 residents of Greensburg, and the other similarly small towns whose residents have offered their support. The Red Cross is helping families, and you can always help the Red Cross.
Tornadoes like the one which hit Greensburg form when cool air from the Rockies hits and rises over warm, wet air from the Gulf. Those interacting fronts produce thunderstorms. The open landscape between Kansas and both the Rockies and the Gulf means that it, like Oklahoma and Nebraska, is a powerful base for tornado formation, and the flat topography of western Kansas makes it easy for those storms to stay intact and build strength.
The Weather Channel is warning that tornadoes are still forming from the same weather system, and that Kansas is still in danger. At a press conference earlier today, state officials said that they had enough assistance and support in Greensburg for the time being, and that their disaster recovery plan is working as planned. If you’d like to help, I’d suggest contacting the Red Cross and then making sure your own household is ready for whatever emergencies are common in your neck of the woods.