After Tornadoes, Towns Plan for the Future

Dealing with the scars left by past tornadoes, towns like Greensburg, Kansas, have involved the community in planning efforts to rebuild and reimagine the future.

Mitch Smith tells the story of Greensburg, Kansas, which lost 95 percent of its buildings in a 2007 tornado. The town’s post-storm planning process offers lessons for Illinois towns like Wahsington and Gifford, struck by similarly tragic storms in November 2013.

“About 850 people live in Greensburg today, Dixson estimates, not even two-thirds of the pre-storm total,” reports Smith. “But today's Greensburg is very much a product of what its people imagined in the months after the storm…”

Greensburg Mayor Bob Dixson stresses the importance of a community-based planning process in deciding what the future looks like after a destructive tornado. He’s quoted in the story as follows: “Plan. Plan. Plan. And do it as a community…Know what you are as a community. Know what your assets are. There's no boilerplate plan, but it has to be what the community thinks.”

The result of Greensburg’s plan, according to Smith, was “an eco-friendly town that would attract visitors and, despite demographic trends that have long seen rural Americans fleeing to urban centers, bring jobs and workers back to town.” Greensburg's environmentally conscious rebuilding plans attracted positive media attention, but also provides some cautionary examples of how hard the process of recovery will be.

Full Story: Tornadoes shape towns' past and future

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