Man remembers Greensburg, Kansas tornado 10 years later

GREENSBURG, Kan. - Jeff Blackburn described May 4, 2007 as a typical day in May. 

It was his wife’s birthday and his family prepared to celebrate.

It was hot, humid and very windy. Local stations were sending out advance warning of storms that were possible later on that evening. Unlike many other storms this one would be different.

A deep cobalt blue filled the sky as storm clouds began to form south of Greensburg around 7:30 p.m. that day. Like many Kansans, Blackburn was prepared to watch the storm come in from his front door.

There were reports of a tornado near Protection, Kansas, just 40 miles south of Greensburg. It wasn’t until a local meteorologist began to point out its direct path towards Greensburg that Blackburn and his family began to take it seriously.

The sirens went off around 9:20 p.m., and the family headed to the basement.

Rain, wind and hail began to hit the family home. Shortly after an intense drop in pressure occurred that could be described as taking off in an airplane but only more intense and painful.

About 200 mph winds began as the family huddled together in the basement bathroom.

“I heard my wife say to my daughter, ‘I heard it doesn’t last long. Hold on, we'll be OK,’ and I was quietly praying, ‘Lord keep us,’ because I didn't know what was happening,” Blackburn said.

Shock set in after the tornado hit as the family emerged from their home, total devastation all around them. They would then be evacuated to Haviland about 10 miles west of Greensburg.

The family wasn’t allowed back to their home until the following Monday. Then they were allowed to pick up any remaining belongings.

Blackburn and his family realized many of their belongings would never be found, including the door that he would stand at to watch the storms.

That was OK because they had each other and that was the most important thing of all. 

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