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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW)- Fueled by the force of an F-5 tornado, a Topeka man is bringing the Topeka tornado to light.

Topeka native Bonar Menninger was the guest speaker at the tornado themed Topeka Chamber of Commerce Power Breakfast Wednesday at the Topeka Capitol-Journal. The date marks the 50th anniversary of the deadly twister. He is the author of “And Hell Followed With It: Life and Death in a Kansas Tornado.” The book was published in 2010.

“The tornado was always a huge shadow over my life as a kid growing up,” he said. “I was always fascinated by it, I couldn’t get enough.”

Menninger says he interviewed more than 100 people from Auburn to Oakland and Rossville to Baldwin to collect stories for the book.

“[I] got a lot of great stories and wanted to capture them before they were gone, that was my main goal,” Menninger said.

The Topeka tornado twisted its way through the Capital City on June 8, 1966. It left a trail of damage more than 22 miles long, leaving buildings in rubble. Sixteen people were killed and more than 500 were injured. The F-5 storm caused $100 million in property damage, the most in U.S. history at that time.

He says listening to some of the stories was hard, but it was Richard Garrett who leaves behind the biggest legacy.

“Richard Garrett was the head of the National Weather Bureau, he was ahead of the time,” Menninger said.

Menninger says Garret developed a unique integrated warning system that included spotters, the media, law enforcement and awareness among the population about how to stay safe during a tornado.

“I think he’s the real unsung hero is this,” Menninger said. “The main reason only 16 people died that day was because Topeka has been so well prepared and it’s a direct result of the efforts that Richard Garrett made.”

Menninger says he was living in Topeka at the time of the storm, but just days before the storm hit he and his family were on vacation in Pennsylvania.

“I missed all the excitement so maybe that’s why I wrote the book to get in on the action,” he said.


By Lindsay Sax |
Posted: Wed 2:28 PM, Jun 08, 2016 |
Updated: Wed 6:23 PM, Jun 08, 2016

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