Wichita, Kansas is a moderately sized city, population just over 372,000 (www.city-data.com, 2011) in the heart of America and was established in 1870 at the junction of the Arkansas Rivers. The railroad arrived in 1872 and the flow of beef and grain from the region to the east began. Today the city is known for another modern transportation enterprise: aviation. The first Cessna Comet airplane was manufactured there in 1917 (www.wichita.gov, 2011). Currently there are many airports and landing fields in the surrounding area including McConnell Air Force Base, Wichita Mid-Continental (major terminal) and regional airports, Colonel James Jabara and Augusta Municipal Airport. Currently, Wichita’s four largest aircraft manufacturers are Boeing Co., Cessna Aircraft Co., Bombardier Learjet Inc., and Raytheon Aircraft Co. (www.city-data.gov, 2011).
Due to the city’s location along the Arkansas River and the predominant aircraft manufacturing industry in the area, two of the most likely hazards the city faces are major flooding and a major accident at one of the airports. An internet search revealed very little about either of those hazards impacting Wichita in the recent past but what was found is the city is prone to severe thunderstorms, hail and tornados. The most recent string of storms and tornados to make its way across Kansas was in May 2011, which resulted in a request from Kansas Governor Brownback for a Presidential Disaster Declaration (Kansas Adjunct General, 2011). That storm system did not cause wide-spread damage in Wichita although according to the web site, www.city-data.com, two tornadoes that did impact the area were:
• On 4/26/1991, a category 5 (max. wind speeds 261-318 mph) tornado 17.1 miles away from the Wichita city center killed 17 people and injured 225 people and caused between $50,000,000 and $500,000,000 in damages.
• On 5/3/1999, a category 4 (max. wind speeds 207-260 mph) tornado 0.8 miles away from the city center killed 6 people and injured 150 people and caused $141 million in damages.
Kansas is in the region of the United States dubbed, “Tornado Alley” (NOAA, 2011) and therefore residents in the state, as well as in the city of Wichita, should be well versed in mitigation and preparedness techniques regarding tornadoes. The practice of building “safe rooms” in houses and having a family emergency kit and plan, are...