The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

May 7, 2014

Tornado-stricken town rebuilds with clean energy

GREENSBURG, Kan. — After a mammoth tornado wiped out most of this rural Kansas community in 2007, supporters of clean energy in the state seized on an unusual opportunity to rebuild a town from the ground up with the latest green technology.

They came up with a sustainable-power dreamscape: wind turbines to power hundreds of homes, futuristic buildings with environmentally friendly features and a gleaming new school that runs on less than half the water of its flattened predecessor.

But the much-publicized reimagining of Greensburg has failed to provide what it needs the most: people. The storm sent half the town packing, its fierce winds accelerating an exodus from rural Kansas that had been underway for decades.

Those who stayed now acknowledge that the reborn town is serving a population of only about 800 and is still looking for answers.

“Prior to the storm, we were a small Kansas community struggling to maintain and grow,” said Sue Greenleaf-Taylor, the city’s economic development director. “Now we are a small Kansas community which had a tornado struggling to maintain and grow.”

Greensburg’s economy, like much of rural Kansas, depends on the agriculture, oil and gas industries, where production advances have reduced the need for labor. The green building materials and bio-energy industries city leaders had hoped to entice never materialized.

The tornado that remade Greensburg, which is about 100 miles west of Wichita, was nearly two miles wide with winds topping 200 mph. It scraped most of the houses and the three-block business district to their foundations. At least 12 people died, and many predicted the town of nearly 1,500 would simply cease to exist.

But local leaders were enthralled by an idea proposed by then-Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and other clean-energy proponents, who saw a blank slate on which to create a better place. The Kansas prairie offered plentiful sunshine and powerful winds to provide power.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World
  • FedEx charges raising online pharmacy issues

    SAN FRANCISCO — FedEx Corp., the latest company accused in a federal probe involving illegal online pharmacies, says it will fight the charges that it knowingly shipped drugs to people who lack valid prescriptions....

    July 27, 2014

  • EU, U.S. seek to curb Putin’s Ukraine course

    BRUSSELS — Months after Russia annexed Crimea and stepped up support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, Europe and the United States are still searching for a way to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to change course....

    July 27, 2014

  • Fighting intense near crash

    DONETSK, Ukraine — Ukrainian armed forces mounted a major onslaught against pro-Russian separatist fighters Sunday in an attempt to gain control over the area where a Malaysia Airlines plane was downed earlier this month....

    July 27, 2014

  • Gaza war rages despite truce pledges

    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel and Hamas launched new attacks Sunday in the raging Gaza war, despite going back and forth over proposals for a temporary halt to nearly three weeks of fighting ahead of a major Muslim holiday....

    July 27, 2014

  • Hamas fires rockets on Israel, ending 12-hour lull

    BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip — Hamas said it fired five rockets at Israel late Saturday after rejecting Israel’s offer to extend a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire by four hours, casting new doubt on international efforts to broker an end to 19 ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Death shows Ebola can spread through air travel

    ABUJA, Nigeria — Nigerian health authorities raced to stop the spread of Ebola on Saturday after a man sick with one of the world’s deadliest diseases brought it by plane to Lagos, Africa’s largest city with 21 million people. The fact ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Police ID kids killed in Philly carjacking crash

    PHILADELPHIA — Two carjackers who fled after ramming a stolen SUV into a family selling fruit for their church, killing three young siblings, were still on the run Saturday as the reward for their capture topped $100,000. The children’s ...

    July 27, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia firing across border

    KIEV, Ukraine — Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the ...

    July 26, 2014

  • Small holes cause big jitters

    SEOUL, South Korea — For the developers of the world’s sixth tallest building near Seoul, a mysteriously shrinking lake and the appearance of small sinkholes in residential neighborhoods couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time. ...

    July 26, 2014

  • Secret photo victims must describe trauma for case

    BALTIMORE — Thousands of women whose genitals might have been photographed during gynecological exams can share a $190 million settlement from Johns Hopkins Health System. But they’ll have to describe their trauma before seeing any money. ...

    July 26, 2014