HESSTON, Kan. (KSNW) – The simulator maybe small, but it gives an experience that is both informative and emotional.
From emergency alerts to actual wind and rain, nearly 1,000 people felt the recreation of the 2007 Greensburg tornado. It’s all inside the the Storm Encounter simulator.
Alexis Westfall was one of the participants at the simulator Sunday.
“It felt like you were in a tornado,” Westfall said. “And, it felt like you were getting tossed around.”
While this might be the closest many have gotten to a twister, there’s a special meaning behind the 8-minute video presented in the simulation.
Jesse Huxman with the Mennonite Disaster Service says the program paints a tiny picture of what the horrors would be truly like.
“You do get a little bit of an adrenaline rush with all the noise and the chaos hitting the house (in the simulation),” Huxman said. “That’s pretty minor compared to what it’s actually like to be in the basement and have the rest of your home disappear.”
The simulation features archive footage of the tornado, including an interview with a victim of the tornado who said, “we all got out and looked and couldn’t believe what we saw.”
Sadly, some of the participants have experienced the aftermath of natural disasters before, like Loyal Martin, who feared the worst in the face of a Kansas twister.
“We saw the tornado changing direction a bit and headed toward Hesston,” Martin said. “We immediately thought that some of our friends were going to get hit, so, as soon as it was over, we went to help.”
As these groups leave, the Mennonite Disaster Service is hoping they’ll take with them an urge to serve others, as Martin did.
“The community spirit you sense in rural America,” Martin said. “I’m sure in New York, too, but we sense it in so many different ways.”
The simulator will make a few more stops around the country in the coming months.
To donate to the Service or find out where the Storm Encounter is headed next, go to the MDS site by clicking here.