Truckers tell of carnage, survival after Kansas twister

| 5/7/2007

Velda and Darrell Wadel are accustomed to tornado warnings. You get that way when you’ve lived your whole life in Kansas.

The Wadels – both OOIDA Life Members from Greensburg, KS – sat sipping coffee on Friday, respectfully observing the dark clouds outside. That quiet watchfulness was violently disrupted with the sudden shattering of the front windows of their farmhouse.

Fortunately for the Wadels, their house was one of only a few buildings left still standing after what is being called an EF-5 tornado wiped out most of the small town of Greensburg on the evening of May 4.

“We’re extremely fortunate,” Velda told Land Line. “Most everybody we’d heard was missing – we found out they had been found and are OK.”

Greensburg is a tightly-knit town of 1,500 people, populated by many truckers, including five OOIDA members and dozens of Land Line readers. Velda said her husband is one of many former farmers and oil rig workers who turned to trucking after oil refineries in the area shut down during the 1990s.

The couple rounded up family members and helped friends pick up personal items among debris spilled by the tornado, which carved a path more than a mile and a half wide. Velda – a former EMS worker – has lived in Greensburg for 40 years, and Darrell has lived there for his entire life.

The couple helped friends in the hours immediately after the tornado and all day on Saturday, May 5, before authorities blocked anyone from town.

“We actually got lost – we didn’t know where we were at,” Velda said. “Nothing was recognizable. It was unbelievable.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer