Tornado-hit town rebuilt with renewable energy capacity

The storm that scraped much of the town of 1,500 to its foundations was nearly two miles wide at one point and had winds topping 200 mph.

Content Dam Hubs Migrated 2012 01 03 Wind Renewable

GREENSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Here are four things to know about the struggles of Greensburg, Kansas, a town 100 miles west of Wichita that was flattened by a tornado in 2007 and then reimagined as a model of renewable energy on the Plains:

POWERFUL STORM: The storm that scraped much of the town of 1,500 to its foundations was nearly two miles wide at one point and had winds topping 200 mph.

MAKING GREENSBURG GREEN: After the storm, environmentalists, architects and then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius promoted a reconstruction that would be a template of energy sustainability. Weathered storefronts typical of rural Kansas were replaced by structures like the Silo Eco-Home, a round concrete structure built to sustain hurricane-force winds. The new city hall has solar panels and ground-source heat pumps, while the renovated courthouse features geothermal heating. A wind farm was built to power up to 4,000 homes.

YOU CAN BUILD IT, BUT WILL THEY COME? The town has lost roughly half of its population since the storm despite the attention generated by its rebirth. Much of rural Kansas has lost population as agriculture mechanized and consolidated. The town's peak was in 1960, when it had about 2,000 people.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS: The town's biggest tourist attraction before the storm was the world's largest hand-dug well, which is 109 feet deep and more than 30 feet in diameter, dug in 1888. Today, tourists can still look at the well and can also climb a glass-enclosed mezzanine for a 360-degree view of the rebuilt community.

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