— Greensburg, Kansas is gone–swept away Friday by a deadly F5 tornado. President Bush declared Kiowa County, Kansas
a major disaster area, making federal aid available to people and communities
affected by the storm.
The National Weather Service classified the twister in the
highest category on its scale. Wind estimated
at 205 mph carved a track 1.7 miles wide and 22 miles long.
In such a tornado, strong frame houses are lifted off
foundations and carried considerable distances to disintegrate. Automobile-sized missiles fly through the air in excess of 400 feet. trees are
debarked, and steel-reinforced concrete structures are badly damaged.
The damage left by one of the strongest tornadoes to rake
across the Plains destroyed 95% of the town. The only reminders of what was a
thriving population are the twin grain elevators.
To make matters worse, the emergency response from the state
will likely be frustratingly slow. According to Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, much
of the equipment usually positioned around the state to respond to
emergencies, including emergency shelters and heavy vehicles, is in Iraq.
That leaves the aid response to groups like the Christian
Reformed World Relief Committee. CRWRC's
Bill Adams is on the scene, meeting
today with leaders of other ministries (like the Red Cross and Salvation Army)
along with the local people to figure out a long-term response.
It's a needs-assessment trip, surely, but on a scale far larger
and with more immediate need. "Normally we would be looking to send our
folks that do cleanup and repairs. But there's not a need for that right now.
The cleanup is consisting of bulldozers that are pushing things out of the
way", explains Adams, adding, "The
destruction is so extensive that it's not a matter of repairing a roof or
cleaning up someone's basement. This is
way beyond that."
The Red Cross and the Salvation Army have been finding
shelter and providing food for the evacuated survivors. This week's coordination meetings will
determine both the shape of the ongoing emergency response and the feasibility
of long-term reconstruction and rebuilding in Greensburg.
Adams says beyond the
physical labor, there's spiritual labor as well. "We come into a community,
and invariable we have more of an opportunity to show the love of Christ. In
fact, our people come back often and say that either they receive blessing by
being able to touch people, or they realize that just bringing hope to a
survivor who's lost everything sometimes is more important than even building a
home for them." Click here (spring storms 2007) if you can help.