State

Greensburg prepares for tornado anniversary next year

The historic Greensburg Theatre was reduced to a pile of rubble after the May 2007 tornado rolled through the small Kansas town.
The historic Greensburg Theatre was reduced to a pile of rubble after the May 2007 tornado rolled through the small Kansas town. The Wichita Eagle

Many Greensburg residents are already deep into planning events marking the 10-year anniversary of the 2007 tornado that destroyed 95 percent of the town and killed 11 people.

Led by City Administrator Kyle Ludwig, several committees began forming in December 2015, including one that concentrated on public art. After extensive research, the committee agreed to place three stainless-steel sculptures along Main Street, with the hope of engaging both residents and visitors.

A huge stainless-steel barrel “will marry the old with the new,” committee member Judy Kirk said. During the daytime, an etched streetscape will be visible and at night a light will shine from within. It will be placed on the edge of a lot that will become a park. The estimated cost of the sculpture and park is $17,065.

Grants will help pay for the artwork. Another sculpture will be a 15-foot-tall, 8-foot-wide kinetic sculpture with stained-glass stars. Its estimated cost is $15,350. The final piece will be a stainless-steel tower with stained-glass stars, at a cost of $26,000.

Committee member Kerri Ulrich, who with her family survived the tornado, suggested that one of the sculptures include a Bible verse, Isaiah 58:12, she read as part of a daily devotional: “And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell.”

“I felt those words were meant to be shared,” she said. “It has been a very personal thing on many levels.”

Shortly after the tornado hit, a long-term recovery plan was developed with the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as a sustainable master plan created by Kansas City-based BNIM Architects with blueprints to turn Greensburg into a model green community.

We want to work our way past being known as the tornado town.

Bob Dixson, Greensburg mayor

Today, City Hall, the Kiowa County Commons, the hospital, the schools, the Sun Chips Business Incubator, BTI Greensburg and Prairie Point Town Homes are built to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design code.

Mayor Bob Dixson said the anniversary events will include a memorial service but it will be more of a celebration of what has been accomplished and where the town is headed.

“We want to work our way past being known as the tornado town,” Dixson said.

Kris Fagan captured this tornado a minute after it first touched the ground as it approaches Kipp elevator in Saline County, Kansas, on October 6, 2016.

Watch the dramatic timelapse of a tornado as it touches down near the western Kansas town of Scott City within a few miles of Ramsey Farms on May 24, 2016. (Video courtesy of Ramsey Farms)

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