Jump to Navigation

Greensburg Tornado 2007

On May 4, 2007, Greensburg citizens were going about their regular routine. Megan Gardiner was one of them.  Like many Kansans when she heard the tornado sirens, she simply assumed they would stop. “The sirens were going off for about 10 minutes and I was thinking, 'Well, they just spotted one out in the country and it's a false alarm and these sirens should go off any minute'," Gardiner said. "But they didn't. I was kind of starting to get a little worried...”

Gardiner and the other citizens of Greensburg were faced with one of the most destructive forces on record. The tornado, which formed in the northeastern corner of the Texas Panhandle, moved slowly across Oklahoma, picking up strength. As it approached Greensburg there was intense lightning. This was followed by large hail, enough to send most Greensburg residents in search of shelter.

Damage from the Greensburg tornado

Brad Stauner, who had been on the road at the time, suffered a broken windshield from the hail. He quickly pulled into a gas station only to be told a storm was approaching. He and others at the store took refuge in a walk-in cooler. This action would save their lives. By the time the tornado reached Greensburg it was an EF5, with an estimated wind speed of 205 miles per hour within the tornado. Estimated to be 1.7 miles in width, the tornado was wider than the town of Greensburg itself. Ninety-five percent of the town was destroyed within minutes, with 60 people injured, and 11 killed.

Despite the horror and destruction of the tornado, many residents found small things for which to be thankful. Two sisters were able to save their wedding dresses, another man found his father's old chest of drawers unharmed. Gardiner and her family laughed over the fact that soda cans, which had been in the laundry room, appeared unharmed, but were completely empty of soda. Many citizens of Greensburg were forced to move away from the city, and start again. But others chose to stay and rebuild their city. They pledged to rebuild it better than before, making it a “green” or eco-friendly city. Gardiner was one of the residents who moved on, “I just live each day," she said. "I don't really take things for granted any more.”

Entry: Greensburg Tornado 2007

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history

Date Created: July 2011

Date Modified: July 2016

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.