Greensburg, Kansas: When The Tornado Veers Left

By: Paul A. Ibbetson

On April 19, 2000, a stormed gathered on a summer evening in Kansas. Not so unusual an event, nor the tornado watches that accompany so many summer days here in tornado alley. Having lived here since birth, I can tell you that tornados are a seasonal part of life and children are taught in early grade school what to do when the alarms sound. Parents learn early, as well, that the value of a good neighbor is only trumped by the value of a good neighbor with a sturdy basement. Despite the preparation and respect that Kansans carry for this black swirling beast, it is easy to forget the full extent of the dangers that they bring. Why? Because, so often the tornado veers right; that is, most often our tornadoes form and work their way through the isolated plains wreaking no more damage than displacing a farmer’s barn or aggravating the cows and their evening supper. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

On April 19, 2000, I saw the viciousness and power of the tornado up close. As is often the case in Kansas, despite the technological advances to tornado warning systems, when the threat is near, storm watchers are sprinkled across the countryside near the communities at risk. Law enforcement, among others often fills the duty as temporary sentinels of the plains. Dutifully, we patrol our little areas of beautiful Kansas and send word at the first sign of danger. It was in this capacity that I watched a tornado, a big one, a town killer, form before me. I was transfixed, if not mesmerized as I watched the black eerie swirling winds give birth to a growing funnel that reached down to the earth and began ripping apart everything in its path. I could hear the freight train shrill of the tornado and it’s a sound that one should go a lifetime without hearing. However, on this evening for the little town of Cherryvale Kansas, the town of which I served and lived, the tornado veered right. That is, it weaved around the city limits and in a moment disappeared to the east. While Cherryvale was spared, the tornado showed no mercy to the neighboring town of Parsons, Kansas. It was then I learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes the tornado veers left and goes straight down your throat with the power to take property, livelihoods, and even precious life. Walking through the town of Parsons, people were in a state of shock, becoming literally lost on streets they had walked for years as lifelong markers had been removed in the massive damage to the city. If it is fair to say that the Parsons, Kansas tornado brought calamity, the tornado in Greensburg brought utter catastrophe. Seeing the total destruction in Greensburg is the visual equivalent of a World War II bombing photo. Yes, the tornado veered left, big time.

To the inhabitants of the 1,500 people who called this town their home, the Greensburg that they knew is gone, but I hazard to think that Greensburg may not be done. I say this with no intention of creating a feel good article as I believe that nothing can take away the loss the people of Greensburg feel at this time. However, I do observe the same American spirit in Greensburg that I saw in Parsons years ago. A spirit of mourning and consoling mixed with an optimistic determinism that only comes from a reliance on God. People from around the state as well as the nation brought forth aid and support, both in prayer and funds, that Parsons would survive. This assistance is now extended to Greensburg that they might recover as best as possible. I am always tempted to see this selflessness and self sacrifice as a unique Kansas quality as I see it here in action so often; but in reality, it’s an American quality. It’s reflected in the generosity after natural disasters such as those seen in Florida, New Orleans, and the list goes on and on. Americans, with all our limitations come forth time and time again to help those in need. It’s what we do; it’s an American quality worth fighting for, as well as observing in the direct aftermath of the storm. Today, it’s Greensburg and no one knows where the dark clouds will form tomorrow. What I do believe is that through the wondrous power of God, the American spirit prevails, and with that spirit, Parsons survived, and so surely will Greensburg. This has been a humble observation of the American spirit so wonderfully displayed in Greensburg, Kansas, days after the tornado veered left.

 Paul A. Ibbetson is a published author and lecturer on the Patriot Act. He is a former Chief of Police of Cherryvale, Kansas, and member of the Montgomery County Drug Task Force. Paul received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Criminal Justice at Wichita State University, and is currently completing his PhD. in Sociology at Kansas State University. Paul is the author of the book “Living Under The Patriot Act: Educating A Society” that is available for purchase at,, as well as other major book outlets. Paul is a regular writer for the Conservative Crusader as well as several other online websites.

About The Author Paul A. Ibbetson:
Paul A. Ibbetson is a former Chief of Police of Cherryvale, Kansas, and member of the Montgomery County Drug Task Force. Paul received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Criminal Justice at Wichita State University, and his Ph.D. in Sociology at Kansas State University. Paul is the author of several books including the 2011 release “The Good Fight: Why Conservatives Must Take Back America.” Paul is also the radio host of the Kansas Broadcasting Association’s 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 award-winning radio program, Conscience of Kansas airing on KRMR The Patriot 105.7 FM, For interviews or questions, please contact him at

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