Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Wow! A Picture Says More Than A Thousand Words

Sometimes it takes a photo to make you realize how your life can change in a New York minute. Today, to keep it in your minds, I am posting some pictures to do just that. Where homes and businesses once stood in Greensburg, Kansas, rescue crews comb through piles of debris in a meticulous search for survivors of a killer tornado. In the rubble, the twister's toll - eight dead in the tiny farming community of Greensburg and one dead in nearby Pratt County. At least 50 people were injured, some critically.

Even before it was flattened by a monstrous tornado, Greensburg's population and fortunes had been in decline. But Mayor Lonnie McCollum vowed Tuesday to bring it back as a new town with a new vision, looking more like an emerging suburb than a fading farming town.

Among the only buildings still standing amid the downed utility poles, stripped trees and rubble are the county courthouse and the 16-story Southern Plains Co-op's grain elevator, the tallest building here.

On May 7th one of Google's satellite providers, DigitalGlobe, jumped into action and gathered imagery of the region destroyed by the F5 tornado for search-and-rescue teams. Today I am making this before-and-after imagery available as a Google Earth overlay. I think you'll agree that the imagery is quite powerful, and we hope it is a valuable resource for rescue teams, residents, and all of those touched by this natural disaster. If you want to see bigger pictures, visit the Google LatLong Blog!

Please Be Patient - Image Sequence May Take A While To Load

Danny McLarty, the location manager for the Southern Plains Co-op, and his employees were salvaging what they could, cleaning the mess and counting their losses. Although the grain elevator was still standing, but only half of the outer shell of its business office remained. Posted signs said, "Construction under progress," and McLarty said he was keeping all 14 employees on the payroll.

Insurance payments also will help, and the Kansas Insurance Department reported that adjusters were already writing checks. Some 90 percent of the businesses and homes in Greensburg, a town of about 1,800, were damaged or destroyed when the mile-wide tornado and winds of 165 mph (265 kph) ripped through. Federal Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Crystal Payton, in Greensburg on Sunday, compared the devastation to that wrought along the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. "This may be smaller in scope than Katrina ... but it is equally devastating," she said.

"This is a farm community. The elevator has to be here. Farmers have to have a place to buy their supplies," McLarty said. "We will be here for them -- that is what a farming community is all about."

All I can say after seeing this is, "Wow!"