A Former Kansan Looks At Greensburg

When I saw the devastation wreaked by the EF-5 tornado on what was the small town of Greensburg, Kansas, I was struck by the power of nature. The twister was more than a mile wide and left a 22-mile long path of destruction. The damage looked a lot like a town that had suffered a direct hit from a hurricane. It looked a lot like coastal Mississippi after Katrina, with everything reduced to huge piles of rubble. The 200-mile-per-hour winds demolished more than 90% of the town's structures, including brick buildings. Businesses, churches, schools, all gone. One of the few surviving structures was the town's only bar. Tell me God doesn't have a weird sense of humor.

Tornadoes are the biggest natural disaster risk for most people living on the Great Plains. Of course, no matter where you live, there is some kind of risk: Hurricanes if you live near the Atlantic or Gulf Coasts, earthquakes along the Mississippi River and the Pacific Coast, and volcanic eruptions on the latter as well. Floods along any river or lake. Forest fires, landslides, sinkholes, blizzards... It's always something. And if you live somewhere long enough, you'll see your local hazards pop up. If you're lucky, you'll just get minor damage. If you're really unlucky, like those poor people in Greensburg, you'll be starting over from scratch, hopefully with a big insurance payout. If I lived there, with my home and livelihood gone, I'd be thinking seriously about relocating once I got my insurance check. Just as with New Orleans, sometimes the struggle to rebuild isn't worth the effort it will take for most people.