Sure, we were lucky Tuesday night, but much of that luck was no accident.
On that evening, an EF3 tornado chewed through Pawnee Rock and western Barton County. Over 27 miles, the twister’s 165-mph winds destroyed 10 homes, damaged many more and injured two residents.
Warnings went out at about 8 p.m. and in about 15 minutes, calls about damage were flooding Barton County Communications and law enforcement. People hurt, people trapped, houses flattened.
It didn’t take long for the storm to move on and dissipate leaving a lingering trail of destruction. However, it could have been much worse.
Sure, the tornado could have been stronger or stayed on the ground longer, or it could have taken a different path and hit more communities. These would have been out of our control.
But, what we could control we did.
First, kudos go to the residents of Barton County. Communications Director Dena Popp put it best: “We are very fortunate that the public listened that weather was coming in. This could have been very tragic.”
We heard the warnings and, more important, heeded them.
Secondly, kudos go to those of us not directly touched by the storm. They stepped up with offers to help the victims, many of whom lost everything. It was great to see “Kansas nice” in full bloom.
And lastly, a big thank you is owed to our safety officials.
From Emergency Management to Communications to the Sheriff’s Office, they were out on the dangerous roads or hunkered down handling the massive volume of calls going in and out. Their efforts kept the rest of us alerted and safe.
County officials held a debriefing Thursday and parsed their response. Sure, there were areas that needed improvement (such as the need for better coordination of volunteers), but a lot went right (like getting warnings out quickly).
This just goes to show that it takes all of us to keep ourselves safe. Good job everyone.