If I were to tell you this is a story about a tornado in Kansas, it would probably bring to mind a certain doe-eyed girl and her little dog. Well, sometimes tornadoes transport girls and their adorable pets to magical lands. Other times they level entire towns.
That is what happened the night of May 4, 2007, when an EF-5 tornado (for non-Kansans, that’s a really freaking big -- the biggest, in fact) nearly two miles wide hit the town of Greensburg, a farming community in south-central Kansas. Almost all of the 1,383 residents lost their homes, nine died, and the town was left looking like this:
The destruction was sudden and the rebuilding process was daunting. However, as thoughts on how to rebuild swirled, a number of people thought, “Hey, what if we rebuilt Greensburg with ‘green’ principles? Ha, guys, see what I did there? Do you get it? ... Guys?”
To which many of their neighbors responded with a “yes, we do get it” and a “yeah, we thought of that idea, too.” Even before the tornado hit, the community was shrinking and its population getting older. Greensburg residents knew they needed a new strategy. The tornado, awful as it was, provided a clean slate.