As the nation looks back on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged cities and communities along the Gulf Coast, we discuss how well the Kansas City area is prepared to deal with disasters of similar proportions — both natural and man-made.


  • Chris Carroll is Emergency Planner for the city of Kansas City, Missouri.
  • Justin Sorg is the Planning and Exercise Program Manager for the Mid-America Regional Council.
Frank Morris / KCUR

A line of storms moved through the Kansas City area early Monday evening, producing heavy rain and tornadoes.

The Clay Country Sherriff’s office reports a tornado touching down near the intersection of Interstate 35 and Highway 152 in Liberty.

A tornado also reportedly touched down in Eudora, Kansas, but in both cases, no injuries were reported.

Many intersections in the metro flooded after the thunder clouds quickly dumped several inches of rain. The Kansas City Fire Department reports high water downtown near Interstate 70 and 13th street.

David DeHetre / Flickr--CC

If you were awake in the Kansas City metro around 11:25 p.m. Saturday, you may have heard a tornado siren ... but you may have not.

Around the same time, the National Weather Service was sending emergency alerts warning about flash floods in the area, creating confusion for many Kansas Citians.

Check out what Kansas Citians were tweeting:

A storm pattern bringing thunderstorms, heavy rain, hail and high winds moved across the Kansas City metro Saturday night. Flash flood and tornado warnings were issued for the region and thousands lost power. Most power had been restored by Sunday morning. 

Though there has been no major damage reported in Kansas City, the Clay County town of Mosby, Missouri, is under evacuation because of rising water, according to the Kansas City Star.

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

Shortly after a massive twister struck his city in May 2011, Joplin, Missouri, resident Brandon McCoy described what he saw during what turned out to be one of the worst tornadoes in U.S. history.

“Standing on the sixth floor, I was trying to help a woman out of some debris, and you look outside and, just, everything’s gone,” he told NPR at the time. “Everything. And nobody knew what happened.”

The tornado left a wide swath of destruction in its wake. One hundred fifty-eight people died. Property damage was catastrophic.  

Patrick Quick / KCUR

Steve Bean is the guy who oversees Kansas City's 127 tornado sirens, each expected to alert people within a mile of potentially life-threatening storms. It's part of his job at the city's Office of Emergency Management.

Even so, he doesn't have tornado nightmares. 

"In an odd way, I love it," he admits. "We spend a lot of time preparing for the 'big one,' so to speak. So it's kind of like — I guess it's like fishing. Once in a while, you want to catch something. Now, I don't want tornados to come, but we do like to be able to see that we made a difference."

There probably isn’t enough tornado damage in Orrick, Mo., to qualify the small town 30 miles east of Kansas City for federal assistance.

Though the May 10 tornado ravaged homes and the local school, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon says it's unlikely claims will top the $8.4 million threshold needed for federal disaster relief.

“We had a chance to tour the school today," says Nixon, who visited Orrick Wednesday. "The bottom line is that community, we’re working very hard to get the debris out of there.”

Wikimedia -- CC

What do rosaries, guitars and “Lord of the Rings” DVD box sets have in common?

They’re all objects that Kansas Citians said they would try to save if a tornado was on the way.

Given this week’s severe tornadoes across the United States, we used social media and the airwaves to ask you: What would you grab if a tornado was approaching?

We don’t advocate spending a lot of time scooping up material items if an incoming tornado is close to your home.

Frank Morris / KCUR

A massive EF5 tornado all but obliterated Greensburg, Kan., on May 4, 2007. Afterwards, city leaders saw a blank slate, a chance to reverse decades of decline by building a town for the future.

Greensburg’s green building initiative, drew big money, and lots of volunteer help. But now Greensburg faces a crossroads. The town is stuck at half its pre-tornado population with few prospects for growth. Some blame trends slowly decimating most farm towns, others find fault with the green initiative.    

Greensburg dreams big


The booming thunderstorms and crazy spring weather have moved in, and any Midwesterner knows what comes with them—tornadoes. Most of us retreat to basements when those sirens sound, but a select few take that as a cue to go hunting for the cyclones. 

Justin Hobson / WikiCommons

Last month, as we all know, a series of tornadoes devastated areas around Oklahoma City, with dozens killed and hundreds injured over several days of storms.

Among the casualties were three men who were well known in the meteorological community and, indeed, to television audiences: Storm chasers Tim Samaras, his son Paul Samaras and Carl Young were doing interviews and sending back footage the day of the EF-3 El Reno storm that changed direction on them and killed them.

In light of these tragic events we wonder, just what is a storm chaser anyway?

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

People in the path of severe weather (and other emergencies) now have a new way to find out about threats: text message alerts, sent straight to mobile devices.

Heart to Heart

Olathe-based humanitarian relief agency Heart to Heart International intends to stay with its medical volunteers as long as they are needed in  Moore, Oklahoma.    

A team was heading to the  EF- 5 tornado scene within hours of the devastation, according to the chief executive.

Organization founder Doctor Gary Morsch, who has Oklahoma  relief agency  roots was ahead of them all.

A mobile medical clinic was on the highway going South by 7 Monday evening. 

National Weather Service

6:50 pm update: National Weather Service cancels tornado watches for most of the Kansas City metro area. A watch remains in effect in Linn and Miami counties.

A storm system is developing over the Kansas City region that is more likely than not to produce tornadoes.

By reckoning of forecasters, the gathering of forces is unusual. 

Super-cells had already formed and fallen apart in areas of east central Missouri by mid-afternoon.

National Weather Service

The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for the Kansas City area, eastern Kansas and most of Missouri. 

The watch was issued late Wednesday morning and is expected to last until at least 10 pm CDT. The storm could bring several intense tornados, hail up to 2.5 inches in diameter, and wind up to 70 mph.

A flood warning has been issued for Jackson county.

You can follow storm at the National Weather Service website.

Soil Cleanup Underway In Southwest Missouri

Oct 5, 2012
wikimedia commons

When the tornado tore through Joplin and Duquesne in southwest Mo. in May 2011, not only did it kill 161 people and destroy thousands of buildings, it also unearthed something dangerous:

Reuiniting Joplin With Their Lost Photos

May 23, 2012
Joplin's Found Photos

When the Joplin tornado struck one year ago, so much was destroyed or scattered that can never be replaced. And it became up to a few creative heroes to restore some of that order.

Kansas City leaders look at the role of the city health care tax, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and House GOP leaders negotiate over workplace discrimination and workers’ comp bills, and more.  It’s a daily digest of headlines from KCUR.

Tornadoes rip through Kansas but few lives are lost.  Poet William Towbridge discusses his work and being Missouri Poet Laureate. It’s a daily digest of headlines from KCUR.

Early Warnings Reduced Human Loss From Tornadoes

Apr 16, 2012

The tornado systems that roared through Kansas over the weekend had an historic quality to them. An early warning appears to have limited the number of injuries as more than a hundred tornadoes touched down.



The tornado season started early in much of the nation and continued over the weekend. Spotters reported more than 120 tornadoes on Saturday. One killed five people in Woodward, Oklahoma. Others ripped into homes and businesses in Iowa and Kansas. And that includes the heart of the economy in Wichita, the aviation industry. Here's Frank Morris from member station KCUR.

Scenes From Saturday's Storms

Apr 15, 2012
@MannWhale / Instagram

People throughout the midwest and around the world had their eyes and their cameras on the storms that swept through the country Saturday. 

Tuesday's tornadoes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area produced some amazing videos of truck trailers being tossed into the air and homes being ripped apart.

"We've got two tornadoes, one in Dallas and one in Arlington. I just watched it plow through a tractor trailer parking lot like it was Godzilla in a temper tantrum."

That's how NPR's Wade Goodwyn just described the images being shown on local television in Texas.

The images from WFAA, the local ABC affiliate in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, show tractor trailers flailing across the air in the middle of a dark debris ball.

Emergency responders say that is was probably a tornado that ripped through the tiny town of Harveyville, Kansas last night.

Walt Covers KC's Worst-Ever Tornado

May 14, 2010

Kansas City – Tornadoes raked Kansas and Oklahoma a week ago, killing 5 people. But those storms were minor compared to the one that hit Kansas City on May 20th, 1957. The Ruskin Heights Tornado was among the most powerful ever recorded. It obliterated the new neighborhood that it's named for, and killed dozens of people. KCUR's Walt Bodine was there before the dust cleared.