City of Greensburg offers advice, assistance to Mayfield, Ky. following deadly tornado

Greensburg residents say they know what those in Mayfield, Ky. are feeling after a deadly tornado struck the town Friday night.
Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 5:14 PM CST
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GREENSBURG, Kan. (KWCH) - The destruction in Mayfield, Ky. is drawing parallels to that of Greensburg, Kan. On May 4, 2007, 11 people died when an EF5 tornado destroyed 95 percent of the town.

While just a test, the city of residents knows the harbinger when a tornado siren sounds and the long process that follows after.

“If you haven’t been through a situation like it, you can’t say, ‘I know what you’re going through,’” said former Greensburg Mayor Bob Dixon. “We know what they thought.”

Communities in the Midwest, especially Kentucky, are now experiencing the same devastation Greensburg faced 14 years ago. While some scars remain, most of the town has been rebuilt. City leaders say Mayfield and other communities impacted by Friday night’s tornadoes should know they aren’t alone and there will be plenty of help.

“Got to start with the pile of stuff in front of you and start picking up and moving forward. Almost 15 years later, to see where we are today, it takes time,” said Greensburg City Administrator, Stacy Barnes.

After the Greensburg tornado, the small Kansas town committed to the goal of sustainability in the build-back process, and the municipal utility became 100 percent renewable. Bob Dixon is the former mayor of Greensburg. He saw and directed this city’s return, but he says in these early days, after a disaster, you have to remember those who lost their lives.

“You need to make sure you honor the lives lost, but at the time, realize that there’s some success being made,” said Dixon.

Bob’s daughter and current city administrator Stacy Barnes and current mayor Matt Christenson both grew up in Greensburg but had moved away when the tornado hit. Both moved back to watch the town come back from its defining moment.

“It’s a new town. It’s not the city I grew up in as far as the physical space and the buildings, but for my kids, it’s their home now,” said Barnes.

Christenson was away at college when the tornado hit his hometown. He got involved with the rebuilding process and says about five years after the tornado, a majority of Greensburg was rebuilt. Still, there are projects, like the airport, that have yet to be completed.

“It takes quite a while. The first step is just cleanup and debris removal, which in Greensburg, took a few months even. All the debris left by the tornado has to be taken away before you can build back what your facilities and new homes are going to be,” said Christenson.

Dixon, Barnes and Christenson all say the one thing to be thankful for is the help that will come - and to lean on the community.

“You’ll get through it,” said Dixon. “And it’s going to be very tough but you got to do it together.”

“I’m sure you’re feeling very overwhelmed by the challenges that await you, but just know that you’re going to have a lot of help. We Americans are great about lending help to our friends and neighbors,” said Christenson.

The mayor says he has sent a message to the mayor of Mayfield to offer advice and assistance.

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