• Please note this new thread in the Announcements forum regarding updated management of the site. Jeff Duda has agreed to assume ownership and lead management responsibilities during what is anticipated to be a 3-12-month interim period while we perform some updates to the site, including changing the hosting. The staff will do their best to provide timely and transparent updates throughout this transition period.

  • A website update occured last week that rendered some of the page display styles obsolete. If you have logged onto the site and are experiencing a strange or messy appearance, it is likely due to this factor. An inadvertent mistake in the meantime likely made this issue worse. It has hopefully now been fixed. See this thread for details on the fix. --Jeff

2007-05-04 Greensburg, KS


As fortune would have it, I happened to be in Greensburg as the first storms hit. I took pictures of this meso until I started getting hit by hail. I then jumped back in the truck and drove to Dodge City. As I was sitting at the Sonic eating my dinner, I turned on my computer and saw the biggest couplet I'd ever observed. The rest is history.

Last edited by a moderator:


Can anyone recommend a good documentary source for this particular event? I drove through there a few days ago and it's odd to notice all the new buildings all through the center of town and how it has completely rebuilt. It's not at all like all the other farming communities in the plains with all the new construction throughout, and you sort of do a double-take until you realize what happened to make all that you see today possible ... knowing how it was almost completely destroyed from one corner to the other. A monster EF5, no doubt of epic proportions, and a true testament to the will and the spirit of the people and the community.
the Discovery Channel did a series on re-building Greensburg in 2008. They used stills from my 40 minute video in several shows. I followed it into town from about 3 miles away. The Weather Channel also did a documentary on it.
I have a 6 minute Greensburg Documentary mp4 file. I don't know who produced it, but it features some KSN footage, and it says it was directed by Brian Schodorf. I've had it since no later than November 2009. It's mostly post-event interviews with residents and footage of the aftermath. If anyone wants a copy, PM me.

Also, I have a couple books that I bought at the "Hand Dug Well" (or whatever it's called) gift store when I visited for the one-year anniversary. You could easily find those or similar books if you do a search, I'm sure.
A very tragic night for many folks - including us. I was still working for KAKE at the time but Randy Hicks and I as well as Lisa, and Mikey all chased together that day. We stopped and played football with some other chasers from the UK for a while at the junction of HWY 400/183 before catching up with Dick McGowan and Darrin Bruin south of Greensburg. Documented the entire lifecycle of the supercell and tornadoes from just south of Protection/Sitka area through Greensburg itself. Cutting through power lines to assist the ambulance trying to get to Greensburg and then doing search and rescue certainly took its toll. Very memorable event. I have attached some video clips - Please Note, very strong adult language Sorry about that.
Yes, Lanny, I remember your coverage along with Jay Prater and the KAKE crew, was outstanding that night. KSNW also had pretty good coverage, but I don't think they had any live spotters out. I knew Dick and Darrin were on the storm, but had no idea they were that close until Dick sent me his video the next day.
I'd just like to note that tomorrow is the 10th Anniversary of this event and give another "tip of the cap" to Mike Umscheid, the radar operator on duty that night, who gave Greensburg, KS an unbelievable 39 minutes of Tornado Warning and 10-12 life-saving minutes of a declared Tornado Emergency for the town.

This audio states that the Tornado Emergency was issued at 9:37. According to Mike Umscheid (on his Facebook post of the 10 year anniversary) he remembers that it was 9:42 and that the tornado entered Greensburg at approx. 9:50 and exited at 9:54. If the recording is correct, Mike issued that Tornado Emergency 5 minutes earlier than he now remembers.
This audio states that the Tornado Emergency was issued at 9:37. According to Mike Umscheid (on his Facebook post of the 10 year anniversary) he remembers that it was 9:42 and that the tornado entered Greensburg at approx. 9:50 and exited at 9:54. If the recording is correct, Mike issued that Tornado Emergency 5 minutes earlier than he now remembers.

From the IEM archives, looks like Mike is remembering correctly. On the link below, go to the Text Data tab, and Update 3, which is the first statement that has the word Emergency in it. The MND header has 41 as the time, but the actual issuance time was 42 according to the DDHHMM storage time at the top of the text product in that Severe Weather Statement.


Certainly the statements before that had scary wording as well. The time in the basis of the Emergency statement issued at 42


was the time of the last 0.5 degree slice from DDC before the text was generated in Warngen. Image of that very scary looking thing below.

Our Greensburg Chase. (links to YouTube clips at bottom)
May 4th, 2007 started off a Moderate risk chase day and our group was pumped up knowing the atmosphere was charged and ready to pop. We left our suitcases at the Dodge City hotel we stayed in the night before because we knew an outbreak would be in the central Kansas area. As the day moved on the risk kept moving east and it drew us with it to Great Bend. There, we stopped and socialized with many other chasers in the Walmart parking lot. It was strange seeing 10 or so chasers in the same parking lot back then. As we began to move east again we heard about the tornado Reed was on in Oklahoma. It was getting late in the day and we felt that painful Moderate day bust about to happen to us. We turned and headed back towards Dodge City on 56 and began seeing two separate beasts on the horizon. One was the Scott City cell to our NW and the other to our SW would become the Greensburg Tornado cell. We always had a rule that we would not chase at night. It was a good rule and it worked. The evening of May 4th, 2007 we broke the rule and 8 of us came close to dying.

We first stopped to take lightning shots on the bend of 183 south of Kinsley. We were blown away by the amount and rate of lightning as well as the size of some of the bolts. I got a call on my flip phone from Sara Austin informing us that they were on a wedge SW south of Greensburg. Her, Paul and the gang were very excited and said the tornado was very visible. This was enticing enough for us to break the rules and drop down 183 to see it.
As we dropped south things took a bad turn (literally). We had some very, VERY good meteorologists in the vans with us. Brian McNoldy, Josh Jans, and Shane Motley were spread out in three vans. Radio discussions became confused as the wind intensity and direction kept changing. We began taking big debris strikes on the lead van as I tried to keep it on the road. Insulation began flying by my windshield in pink flashes. We were in big trouble but did not know why (until later). As we approached 54 the confusion continued as some on the group got a glimpse of a tornado to our right, which did not make any sense (until later). Our attempted escape from mega RFD seemed to last for eternity (10 minutes on video).
We finally pulled out of the danger and was called by Sara in a panic. She was at a house south of Greensburg that had people trapped and needed help. She also talked about the cows being rolled up in the fences (and dying). We saw flashing lights and stopped to notify a volunteer firefighter of the situation the Austin’s came across. The volunteer turned out to be a stunned Fire Chief who had just lost his entire town. We offered to help and he accepted.
We had stopped to help folks after tornados many times before. It always turned out good and we felt good about doing it. Greensburg was much different. Many in the group worked hard through the night and did what they could in a very, very messed up situation. None of us had ever experienced devastation at the level we did in Greensburg, even the professional Firefighters. My personal story of that night is still a bit difficult to think about. There was a point of time in my trek to find rescue equipment that I stopped and said out loud to myself that I did not want to be there. At that same moment, I heard many people screaming for help. I remember the feeling of being overwhelmed and helpless. It was crushing. It bothered me for years.
An Organized response took hours due to the remote location of Greensburg. The first wave of volunteers all had a family members or friends they needed to go look for so their organized response quickly became unorganized. Kinsley and Pratt Firefighters arrived and began searching through the massive debris field that used to be Greensburg. It is hard to describe trying to crawl through debris and never knowing if you are on a street, in a yard, or in a house. It took hours for the first big city professional rescuers to arrive and assist. Dodge City sent a couple firefighters on a mini rescue and we worked together through the night. Wichita firefighters arrived in the morning. I called my contacts in Texas when I finally got cell service and I asked for them to mobilize the nearest USAR team. I predicted 100 lives lost in the beginning.
We saw many people working their butts off to help neighbors and family members, but we also saw complete chaos. We witnessed greed in folks trying to capture pictures during the people of Greensburg’s worst times. We saw things many of us have never talked about and most likely never will.
The absolute truth is that while we gave it everything we had, there was no real rescuing of people or heroism, we tried our best and the sheer magnitude of the disaster was overwhelming.
This is the reality of a big destructive tornado. Many chasers find themselves in these situations if they chase long enough. It is not fun. There is NO Glory. If you find yourself in one of these situations and are there to take pictures you better think about it and put your camera down. Think about what it would be like for your community to be destroyed and your family trapped or injured and you see someone only wanting to take pictures. I cannot even imagine.
Hats off to those who were there and did your best to try and help. I know there were a lot of you there.
The reason we could not escape the RFD was because it was actually the tornado itself occluding and turning left right behind us. Not only did it nearly hit us on 183, but also 54 after we tried to escape west.

Greensburg Clip 1

Clip 2


  • Kiowa-county-May4-2007.gif
    166.5 KB · Views: 0
I'd like to echo Bob and thank you for your first person account, and also for your selfless service to the people of Greenburg that terrible night. I'm glad that the number of fatalities, though significant, was only a small fraction of your initial estimate.

This is probably not the forum for it, but since you brought it up, I'd like to address the issue of photojournalism and ethics in this matter. While stormchasers are not, for the most part, professional photojournalists - when there are no "proper" photojournalists present, anyone who gets the photo or video (particularly in a remote location) can be, in effect, pressed into such service. "Pictures" are what often move people to action and/or to care about a specific issue (in this case, for example, one might be making a case for proper funding for the NWS and the warning service they provide, for local EMTs and Fire Departments, etc.).

One famous example, discussed in photojournalism ethics classes is this one: http://rarehistoricalphotos.com/mother-daughter-falling-fire-escape-1975/ . You may note to what that shocking "picture" (and the news coverage that it drew public attention to) eventually led:

"The picture also prompted officials in Boston to rewrite its laws regarding fire escape safety. Fire safety groups around the country used the photo to promote similar efforts in other cities."
Another article examines this issue: Are photojournalists obligated to help in rescues?
Photojournalism also provides something that society needs, it just isn't always as universally recognized. That being said, there isn't any reason that a person might not be able to do both, if circumstances allow (document AND assist rescuers). Also not to be ignored is that photojournalists can also suffer from PTSD after an incident.

I can certainly understand how one might be irked to see someone with a camera while they were struggling to carry out search & rescue procedures, particularly when they needed more help. But, IMHO, we should be careful not to condemn an entire field, or encourage scorn to be thrown at people who happen to be documenting evidence in the aftermath of a disaster.
This is kind of tangential to what Darren said.

I had been chasing for 12 years before I witnessed my first killer tornado. I had a few good vids posted on YouTube that had been there for years that never attracted any media attention, but when I posted the video of the killer tornado within hours I received an email from a network which wanted to show my video on their morning show. I was the only chaser to have posted a video of that tornado on the internet.

Well, that immediately angered me. No interest in my other vids, but someone dies and then they're suddenly all over it. I told them no.

A few months went by and I was still thinking about it. I finally realized that tornadoes that kill are news. (Most) others just aren't. That's just the way it is, and that's not going to change anytime soon.
Last edited: