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State oil firms fret over Greensburg damage

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, May 9, 2007, at 10 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008, at 5:15 p.m.

TGT Petroleum suffered only minimal damage to production equipment in the tornado that devastated Greensburg on Friday night.

But for all practical purposes, the disaster shut down the company because of the extensive damage to other oil supply and oil service companies in Greensburg and to the town's infrastructure.

"I lost all of my support services," said Lynn Herrington, executive vice president of TGT, which is based in Wichita. "The trucks that haul the water from our wells, that haul our oil and oil field products, the stations where we buy gas and diesel fuel, the shop where we get our pickups fixed, the courthouse where we file our paperwork, the mailboxes where we get and send mail. Gone. All gone."

It's still hard for him to absorb the impact of all that was destroyed, Herrington said.

"I've been dealing in that town for 35 years and Greensburg has been mighty good to me," he said.

"I've spent more hours than I can count talking and making deals in the restaurants there. And if the walls of the Jayhawk Motel could have talked, man, the stories of geology they could tell."

Greensburg was at the heart of much of the oil and gas industry in Kansas, a place for well-site geologists to find a motel room, a hot shower, and, time permitting, a hot meal. It was home to oilfield supply companies such as Kiowa Supply, Greensburg Oil Field Services, Volz Oil, Scott Oil Field Construction and Apache Supply.

Getting back to work

A call to Greensburg Oil Field Service's 800 number on Wednesday turned up Bill Gibson, who has been coordinating an effort to get the company's trucks back in service from his home in Haviland.

"Our business was on the east end of town, and we had less damage than most," he said.

"We're one of about four businesses in Greensburg that will be up and running as soon as we get our utilities back."

Gibson said just knowing what happened to other people is heartbreaking.

"The oil and gas industry is like one big family," he said. "Everybody knows everybody. A bunch of us have worked for one another at one time or another or bought supplies from one another or been associated in some way.

"And, like a family, when one of us hurts, all of us hurt."

Among those whose pain is shared is Volz Oil owner Norman Volz, who lost his wife and business partner, Beverly, and his home. His only employee, Larry Hoskins, also was killed in the storm.

"His business is kind of like ours," Gibson said. "It can probably be repaired. He'll be up and going soon, but the loss is so much. So much."

'The last outpost'

John Weir, with Wichita-based Oil Producers Inc., says Greensburg has to come back.

"Greensburg is an important town to the oil industry, almost the last outpost after you leave Pratt and Medicine Lodge before you get to Liberal," he said. "We need Greensburg."

Oil Producers owns Kiowa Supply at 221 W. Kansas and Apache Services at the east end of town. Kiowa Supply was wiped out. Apache Services sustained only minor damage but has been pressed into service as a fire department command center.

"We have 18 people affiliated with Oil Producers who had homes in Greensburg," Weir said. "They are a good group of people with a wonderful attitude, and they are going to rebuild. We're grateful that everybody came out of this safe."

Oil Producers put its own crews to work sifting through the debris and salvaging what they can at Kiowa Supply.

"We've acquired some space in Mullinville, and we will operate out of there until we can rebuild," Weir said. "We should have it pretty much cleared out by the end of the week."

Gibson said he has every confidence Greensburg will come back.

"These are hard-headed, hard-working people," he said. "In due time, we will come around and be right back."

Reach P.J. Griekspoor at 316-268-6660 or pgriekspoor@wichitaeagle.com.

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