At 32 feet across, 109 feet deep and completed in 1888, the world's largest hand dug well can be found in my home state of Kansas. Unfortunately, the little town which used that well as its water supply is almost completely gone -- except for the local pub.
The town of Greensburg, Kansas had little else to draw attention to it except for the well. It was a nice little tourist stopover left from the days before Interstate 70 connected Kansas City with Denver. The well was so large, that a system of stairs were built inside to allow people to walk down to the water level, fill their buckets and walk back up. At 109 feet deep the hike down and back was like standing on the roof of a 10-story building and walking to ground level and then back up.
On Friday, a large storm system roared down out of the Rockies and raced across the Great Plains. that storm produced the tornado that almost completely wiped Greensburg off the map. The tornado was described as being about 1/2 mile wide and wedge-shaped shaped. The intensity of the tornado is estimated to be "an upper F4 or F5" according to National Weather Service meteorologist Larry Ruthi. The term "F4" and "F5" is a scale used to describe the strength and intensity of a tornado, much like the Richter Scale for earthquakes. An "F5" is the strongest tornado rating and was described in the 1996 movie Twister as "the finger of God."
Saturday was not much nicer to Western Kansas and other parts of the Great Plains as more tornadoes like the one that struck Greensburg pounded their way across the region. According to the Kansas Adjunct General's office eight tornadoes were reported today in Kansas.
On a personal note, having lived all but the last eight years of my life in Kansas, I can honestly say that even with this kind of frightening weather, I truly miss living in "Tornado Alley." When Jeff Foxworthy used to tell jokes about people living in Tornado Alley standing on their porches and watching the storm, he wasn't joking. Unless that bad boy is headed right for thier house, most people in that part of the country will stand on the porch or in the front yard and watch the thing go by. That is one "spectator sport" I do miss from my days in the Sunflower State.
Please understand, I am not trying to make light of the serious situation now facing the folks of Greensburg. I sympathize with them more than they might imagine. I've lived through many storms like the one that produced the tornado that hit their fine town on Friday. I've seen what tornadoes can do to buildings. I've seen cars thrown a half mile from where they were parked. I've seen buildings flattened and I've seen mobile homes peeled open like sardine cans. It isn't funny when you think about the fact that you watch them as they come down and destroy one family's whole life and hop over the neighbor's house sitting 50 feet away. The description of F5 tornadoes as the Finger of God is most appropriate.
I write this story only to mention that there are still people here in the United States that have more to worry about than whether or not a bunch of people in LA's MacArthur Park were beaten by cops. I would like to ask on behalf of fellow Kansans, if you could find it in your hearts to say a prayer to which ever God you worship for strength and stamina to face the difficulties these people are about to face. I'm sure many of them did the same for Los Angeles in 1994 and San Francisco in 1989.
Oh and one more thing: it is always said that tornadoes sound like freight trains -- so what did they sound like before there were freight trains?
Copyright © 2010 D. E. Carson
A Little Too Close To Home
Copyright © 2010 D. E. Carson
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