High Plains Drifter

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and do not necessarily represent those of official National Weather Service forecast products,
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May 10, 2007

Presidential Visit to Greensburg

Filed under: Editorial,May 4, 2007 Greensburg,Special Cases — Mike U @ 1:11 pm

President George W. Bush participates in a briefing Wednesday, May 9, 2007, at the Emergency Operations Center in
Greensburg, Kansas, during his visit to the tornado-ravaged area. White House photo by Eric Draper (caption and photo from whitehouse.gov) 
I am barely in this picture… that’s my head there at the very bottom-right portion of the photo. 

Wednesday was certainly another wild day for me (and hopefully the last one!).  The evening prior, I received a phone call from U.S. Senator Pat Roberts of KS expressing his congratulations on a job well-done to me and my colleagues at our office that fateful evening.  I was invited to take part in the Presidential visit to Greensburg — more specifically, on a short list of individuals to take part in a closed-door briefing at the makeshift operations control center just outside the courthouse in Greensburg.  We (4 of us including our MIC and WCM) left for Greensburg about 830am or so.  About halfway there, I received a phone call from Air Force One.  I believe Senator Roberts passed along my cell phone number.  The President offered his congratulations on a job well done to me and our office on getting the warnings out in a very timely and efficient manner.  Definitely an honor I’ll never forget!  Receiving a call from Air Force One on my personal cell phone… I still can’t really get over that one. 

Anyway, we arrived in Greensburg after waiting in a fairly long line along Highway 54 and met up with the Director of the National Weather Service who was along with the Central Region Director of the NWS.  It was great to meet these important people of our NWS… especially General D.L. Johnson.  Something completely unrelated… that I just have to mention…  Rock Chalk Jayhawk Go KU!  The General is also a KU alumnus along with me… so we represented the Crimson and Blue well I think :)

After standing around for awhile in the rain, I had to get ready to go into the meeting room where the President was going to conduct a briefing.  After waiting for upwards of an hour it seemed like, the President made it in to the room and we all introduced ourselves and shook the President’s hand.. once again, the President offered his congrats on a job well-done.  Towards the end of the briefing, I believe it was the FEMA Director that wanted to make a special acknowledgement to myself and our staff at NWS-DDC for our performance.  I spoke just briefly before the group, and I just wanted to acknowledge that it was really a well-coordinated effort by the six people we had working that evening in our office that made the flow of information in and out of our office so efficient.  Before we dismissed, Senator Roberts found me and made sure I got in a photo with him and the President. 

After that was all over I met back up with Scott and Larry from our office and we toured the damage so I could see it for myself.  What really impressed me the most was all the brick building damage.  Many of the brick buildings along Main Street were 3 to 4 bricks thick with no real "point of entry" for the wind.  The High School destruction was also unbelievable… an extremely well-built structure from 1937… that was really no match for this tornado. 

Anyway, I was just honored to have been able to represent the National Weather Service yesterday, and it is most obviously a day I won’t forget!


  1. Wow – cool – this has been quite a week for you! Are we going to need a security clearance before we can have a chaser party now?

    Comment by Mike Peregrine — May 10, 2007 @ 1:53 pm

  2. Mike…You’d better start archiving your radar images and the statements that you sent from this event…Also if you haven’t done so write a basic outline of what you did and why you did it so you can refer to it while you plan your talks…I imagine that you will have a busy year of speaking engagements….I was watching from here in Missouri…Your team made the right choices at the right time…DDC made a real difference in this event…The old STORMLAB and INTERWARN was “burning up”…Kudos to you and the DDC team…Jim

    Comment by Jim Sellars — May 10, 2007 @ 9:25 pm

  3. Mike,

    Have never had a chance to meet you, but congrats on a job well done by both you and the office staff. I can only imagine the utter sinking feeling in your gut as the circulation passed over Greensburg. You guys sounded pretty busy on the NAWAS that night. By the way, Rock Chalk I’m a Jayhawk, too!! Senior in Atmo at KU this year, and the last of the lowly HMT’s at the Topeka office. Mr. Hall sends his kudos on a job well done! Lastly, make sure you guys get that darn RTP out on time!! Your tornado pass is about used up!! :D Maybe I’ll see you out there someday…or who knows, maybe you’ll end up in TOP!

    Comment by Shawn — May 10, 2007 @ 11:05 pm

  4. Mike,
    I remember you when I lived in Kansas City and you chased with Jay Antle from Lawrence. I recall the day you drove to western Kansas in October and filmed a rogue tornado that defied all odds. I knew then you had a knack for understanding severe weather in a manner few ever do. When I saw you name on CNN I had to write and congratulate you on the impeccable job you do for the NWS. I recall Greensburg from a chase in 1997 and its hard to believe the town is gone.
    Your committment to excellance saved lives on the fateful day and if I ever chase out that way, I will be sure to stop by and shake your hand because its people like you that make the difference.

    John Moser

    Comment by John M. — May 11, 2007 @ 10:50 pm

  5. Hey Mike,
    Saw you on Good Morning America the other day and thought, “Wow, and I knew him back when we were trying to survive Eagleman’s Severe and Unusual Wx class.” lol

    Seriously, congratulations on a job well done, and, especially, for seeing to it that the entire DDC team gets the credit they deserve. Very impressive!

    Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

    –Ray M.

    Comment by Ray M. — May 12, 2007 @ 9:54 pm

  6. WAY TO GO MIKE!!!

    I want to express how proud I am that a fellow CFDG’er performed such an incredible duty, and while in the act, saved many, many lives. Mike, not only has this brought great credibility to our CFDG community, but it also adds a desperately needed view of professionalism and humane, caring attitude to the public’s image of the storm chaser.

    Thank you Mike!

    Chuck Robertson

    Comment by Chuck Robertson — May 14, 2007 @ 10:51 pm

  7. I was talking to Tony tonight and he told me to check out your site and told me the story. Way to go!!! Mega Kudos!!!


    Comment by Doug Kiesling — May 15, 2007 @ 2:16 am

  8. Outstanding radar. It appears that it is very well maintained.

    Comment by ET Staff — May 15, 2007 @ 12:47 pm

  9. Good job on the warning. I am relieved to know that there are still a few bold people that will go with their gut and make a big decision.

    Now, I am about to seem a huge dickhead. You thank the spotters and chasers in your blog and on your site, but not a single time on NATIONAL television did you mention us. How could you have actually known about the large destructive tornado with US, the ground truth? You may not understand my anger, but there was so much praise going to you, and as you deserve praise for sure, you didn’t mention that there are people driving around within 5 miles of this beast that are out there for one reason only. To tell you what the hell is happening at ground level. I hope you don’t take this as a hatefull message. It’s just disappointing to hear the term hero thrown at you without so much as a thank you.

    Now all of you can proceed to hating on me.

    Comment by Mike Scantlin — May 15, 2007 @ 6:58 pm

  10. Mike Scantlin– Ahh, but what you saw on Good Morning America was about 2/3 of the entire interview. It was not live, and since it was not live, GMA had time to edit the interview down however they wanted to. I had absolutely no control over that. One of the questions Diane asked me was in regards to tornado sirens and if we activated them in Greensburg directly from the NWS… this is where I went into the discussion of the whole integrated warning system where I discussed the importance of the TV/radio media, county EM, spotters/chasers, etc… which was left out of the “final cut” if you will. I’m sorry you feel angry about this… but you better darn well believe that all the reports we were getting not only in our office directly…but through spotternetwork.org and via television (we can watch one of the WIchita TV stations in our office to see the dissimination of our warnings and get additional reports) were of immeasurable value in the warning process… and they always will be!

    Comment by Mike U — May 17, 2007 @ 11:42 am

  11. i figured that might be the case after posting that message. sorry for the misunderstanding.

    Comment by mike scantlin — May 17, 2007 @ 5:58 pm

  12. Mike,

    Yes, the entire Integrated Warning System (for which you, as the warning forecaster on duty, were probably the key link) worked as it should. I cannot even fathom the loss of life had you not correctly recognized the potential leftward change in direction as part of the polygonal extrapolation of storm motion, hence projecting a path probability that included the town…and by extension, warning them. A nocturnal, violent tornado engulfing a town like this has some parallels from the 1920s-1950s which were absolutely horrific in terms of total casualties (loss of life + injuries), so the difference can be roughly conceived.

    You’re very astute to point out that it was a coordinated effort of your office team, as well as SPC (Steve Corfidi’s excellent, 3+ hour lead time tornado watch), the local EM (good siren management that resulted in those sounding so far in advance, right after the warning), media broadcasters conveying the warning, and many others in the chain. DDC suffered no software or equipment breakdowns to hamper the process either — a testament to the electronics support folks as well. And Larry (your MIC) has fostered an atmosphere there that encourages science, learning and understanding — a large amount of which comes from directly observing the atmosphere in action. This is why there are several storm chasing meteorologists on staff there (including the recently retired Jim Johnson).

    Still, if your warning hadn’t been good as it was, which was a direct result of your severe weather expertise (gained in no small part from storm observing!) and situational awareness, that link in the warning system would have broken and then the whole chain fails Greensburg. Great job. Absolutely splendid performance, by you in particular and by everyone else up and down the line in the Integrated Warning System.

    ===== Roger =====

    Comment by ===== Roger ===== — May 21, 2007 @ 11:27 pm

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