This is my recount, I’ll be adding pictures and more text in the days and weeks to come.
Cassie and I drove to Greensburg, picking up Cassie’s childhood friend from Colorado Springs in Limon. We left immediately after we heard that the tornado had hit the town, after putting together what we thought would be needed: flashlights, fire gear, shovel, broom, walkie-talkies. We had no good information about what was hit and what wasn’t, and reports filtered to us during the night about the damage. It started off at 40%, 50%, and within a day was at 95%, which is the real figure. On the way into town, we booked a couple of hotel rooms in Pratt, which turned out to be the last two hotel rooms there (30 miles East of Greensburg). In Hays we bought plastic sheeting, contractor garbage bags, boxcutters, and staplers, thinking this might be useful to cover windows and clean debris. Of this, only the garbage bags were used, after I left town the first time.
Because of my firefighter status, I was able to go into the town, and I joined up with the Kinsley Fire Department (see X KFD in green paint on houses in pictures, I wrote that). Kinsley is about 20 miles north of Greensburg, so they all had a personal stake as did I.
I went door-to-door with the canine rescue dogs and handlers, searching through every room in the house and breaking open doors as required to gain entry. I was responsible for the safety of the dog and handler, so I had to lead into the buildings, and where I didn’t think the situation was safe, back out my crew. We were pulled out of the town as another group of tornadoes was heading towards us, so I walked out to the cordon (policemen and army) and the Janssens picked me up to go back to Pratt.
On Saturday night, I left the town exhausted, we ate dinner at Humble Pie in Pratt, where Cassie said I did not look good. They gave us the dinner for free after learning that many of our party were homeless, and we watched TV in the restaurant as tornados threatened to destroy Greensburg, Haviland (where many evacuees were housed), and Pratt. We eventually went to the Super 8, where Cassie, myself and my mother-in-law and father-in-law shared a room. In the middle of the night the window blew open, sending us all scrambling for shelter thinking another tornado had hit after watching them all around us on TV.
Between Saturday and Sunday, I was in close communication with chief Benson, who had a crew standing by ready to drive to Greensburg to help. Unfortunately, I could never seem to get the right contact, trying the Sheriff’s office in Pratt, the hospital, and the next day I waited most of the day in the staging area for a response from incident command on whether the crew from BMFPD should drive out.
In the end I left Sunday from Greensburg, took many pictures (all on my website) and drove myself back to Boulder, leaving Cassie and her friend behind in Pratt. I had to thread my way out of Kansas to avoid the tornadoes that hit again Sunday afternoon and evening.
Greensburg residents were only let back into town (on a schedule) on Monday morning.
On Tuesday night, Cassie called me and said she needed help, so I sent out an e-mail to the fire department asking for a volunteer to come out with me. Melanie Pray answered first, and we set out Wednesday evening to return to Greensburg.
We got into Greensburg Thursday morning, and I was assigned by my wife, now usurping the title of Supreme Commander from my father-in-law, to sort through and pack belongings that were still OK after the tornado and ensuing two days of rain (the tornado punched out all the windows). Melanie was across the street doing the same thing for the Smiths.
We spent the next three days packing and sorting and moving stuff, and finished on Saturday night. Melanie and I took a LOT of pictures. The town was much improved between the first time I was there and later.