Greensburg KS F-5 Tornado Term Paper

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Overall Analysis of the Rebuilding Process

The region of Greensburg is an agricultural community, which is located in south-central Kansas. The day of May 4, 2007, marked a great tragedy in Greensburg, when it witnessed an EF-5 tornado. The study by FEMA (2007) states that according to the standard meteorological scale this was the most severe tornado in terms of wind speed. The consequence of the Greensburg tornado were very brutal, it demolished the region. The report by Paul, Che, Stimers and Dutt (2009) provides a complete description of the tornado. The author writes that the winds had a speed of over two hundred miles per hour. Moreover, the tornado cut a swath twenty-two miles in length and one and a half miles in width through the region. After the tornado passed, the damage was analyzed and it was found that approximately ninety-five per cent of the farming community and structure, which included some historical landmarks, was destroyed. Eleven people lost their lives were killed, vehicles were broken, and most of the electrical infrastructure was severely damaged. As a result, life for residents became too difficult to live and they had to be relocated. Most of the residents were displaced from their homes and businesses (National Weather Service, 2008).

The tornado was mostly unexpected but after the shock subsided, the time for rebuilding Greensburg initiated. Once again there was something for the locals to look forward to; turning a tragedy into something extraordinary. A lot of different options were discussed and the most passed around idea was to build the new Greensburg town as a "green" community. The voices of the locals were soon heard by the government and they dispatched a team that comprised of energy experts, civil engineers and architects to provide the locals of Greensburg with all the technical support they needed. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) both collaborated cohesively to work on the rebuilding phase. Soon after, the work started and a number of local and national agencies, institutions and industries volunteered to help the locals with financial and physical resources.

The works of Langdon (2007) claim that the teams sent by DOE and NREL had an instrumental role in making planning and development projects. This review their involvement and other federal policies used to construct the path to recovery. This report will evaluate the evolution of use of energy in the region, which will also include historical evidence till the present date. Moreover, the study will summarize all the available energy sources and the plan to use it.


When the tornado hit Greensburg, a thirty minute advance warning was issued to the local. The works of Langdon (2007) state that if this warning was not issued than the death toll could have been even higher.

However, considering the extent of the tornado, the overall death toll is not very large, but the devastation caused is immense and as mentioned earlier most of the residents lost their homes and all of their possession with it. The devastation immediately gained the attention of the whole country and it was soon visited by various government officials, including President Bush. The involvement of the government was apparent but many nonprofit organizations such as American Cross, United Way and the Salvation Army assisted as well.

It is important to note that the first priority of the response team was to safely relocate the victims to a safe place and also operate a search and rescue operations for the people loss of under the rubble.

Furthermore, the devastation caused by the Greensburg tornado was unlike most tornado disasters; it demolished more than ninety per cent of the structures in the region. This kind of a disaster requires more than usual resources to accomplish the job, as it tested both the disaster response team during and after the occurrence of the tornado. Another factor that should be considered is that the weather was also not supportive to the response team. Hence, the nature of this case, also extends the usability of this report and can be applied a number of disaster hit regions (National Weather Service, 2008).

If all of these factors are added up then the paramount task of the response team can be gauged. The paper will review the comments of various researchers on the initial efforts and the rehabilitation process at Greensburg.


The primary objectives of this study are to examine the following points:

(a) The extent and nature of private and public emergency responses to the devastating tornado in Greensburg on May 4, 2007.

(b) Develop an understanding of the prospects of Greensburg to rebuild the town.

Related Studies and Incidents

One of the outcomes of a severe natural disaster is that it is often followed by a large or small scale of migration of locals from the affected region to their relatives or other regions. The works of Cross (2001) give the example of 'Spencer', which is a small town of just over three hundred people, located in South Dakota. The author claims that the incident of Spencer is closely related to the tornado in Greensburg. Firstly, Spencer also witnessed a tornado in 1998, which resulted in one-hundred and eighty-six buildings to collapse. This corresponded to as much as eighty-four per cent of the structures in Spencer. The author states that the rehabilitation process at Spencer was very slow, only about one-half of its original residents were able to return back to their home by 2000.

Similarly, the example of the town of Hoisington is also closely related with the tornado of Greensburg. The town of Hoisington also had a small population of three thousand people. The town witnessed a severe tornado in 2000 and a huge number of families had to migrate away from the region because of the devastation. Most of these families have not returned back to the town even till now.

After reviewing these examples, it would not be wrong to suspect that a large percentage of the Greensburg's residents would not be tempted to come back to the region if they are not given appropriate financial incentives. This will make rehabilitation even more difficult.

Analysis of Emergency Response

By definition, emergency response signifies all actions that are taken before, during and after a catastrophe takes place. The primary purpose of emergency response is to save lives, enhance the effectiveness of recovery and minimize the damage to structures of the affected region. The works of Brock and Paul (2003) suggest that the term of emergency response is most commonly used to define actions taken immediately after a disaster. Hence, this section will go by that definition and evaluate the emergency response provided after the Greensburg tornado in 2007. This evaluation will also demonstrate the effectiveness of government policies and preparations for such events.

In order to analyze a specific emergency response, the corresponding disaster must also be considered. For the case of a disaster like a tornado, the emergency services are communicated to act with most urgency. Moreover, few of the services offered for such a disaster are search and rescue operations for possible survivors, provisions for temporary shelter, and provisions for mental health counseling, general medical care for the victims and resources to remove debris. The following analysis will evaluate all aspects of the emergency response team. This is illustrates how well the policies of the government faired with such a catastrophe (Langdon, 2007).

Search and Rescue Operations

The town of Greensburg was not densely populated and a thirty minute warning was issued before the tornado hit the region. Fortunately, most of the population was able to move to relatively safer locations. However, just as the tornado faded and the citizens came out of the shock, a number of 'missing persons' reports were registered and many victims made it back to Greensburg to start the search and rescue mission themselves.

The report by Paul, Che, Stimers and Dutt (2009) conducted a study to analyze the emergency response by using the actual victims of this tornado. The findings of this report claim that approximately seventy per cent of the respondents participated in search and rescue operations for these missing personnel. Among the respondents, who went on the search and rescue mission, thirty per cent started this operation immediately after the tornado left the town.

Moreover, forty per cent of the respondents followed after one hour and the rest came back within six hours' time.

When these respondents were inquired about the role of public and private agencies in search and rescue operations, then not much positive feedback was received. The official search and rescue missions did not start until twenty-four hours later. However, the respondents concede that the delay was primarily due to bad weather. Similarly, different volunteer groups and private agencies also arrived relatively late. However, once they arrived, the search and rescue operations were conducted in a systematic manner.

Approximately the operations carried by…[continue]

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