In his "For Openers" column, editor Greg Ettling talks to drillers who witnessed the rash of twisters that hit the country.

“It’s too early to tell; everyone’s still kind of in shock.” That was the typical answer we received when we spoke with water well professionals in tornado-hit towns and asked them for an assessment of their situations. Press time was right after the second round of twisters hit, so everything still was a mess. We just went down the list in the Yellow Pages and started dialing. We got a lot of out-of-service recordings and interminable rings (answering machine out). It was no coincidence that the people we were able to speak with had gotten through the ordeal relatively unharmed. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who didn’t.

Walter Atchinson (Atchinson Pump Service) in Jackson, Mo., reports, “I didn’t have any destruction at all, thank the Lord. It hit just a little bit north of me and tore things up pretty good. Forty or 50 homes were severely damaged or destroyed. And a big ceramics factory was destroyed – there’s going to be quite a few people out of work.

“There wasn’t so much damage out in the country. Most of it was in town where they have city and county water. Officials are still evaluating. There’s no price tag on the damage or anything like that yet. The adjusters are in town going through everything.” The whole ordeal will have little impact on Atchinson’s business. “I’m retiring,” he says. “It’s time to let someone else take care of it now.”

Also unscathed was John Elliott (Elliott’s Water Well Pump Repair) in Oklahoma City – except for a mess. “I’m about two miles from the General Motors plant, and I’ve got their insulation all over my yard,” he reports. “It’ll be a couple days before the phone starts to ring; right now, things are just beginning to get sorted out at all – we’re still looking for people. FEMA is coming in today so that should get things started. But right now, it’s just chaos. It probably will take a couple days for all this to sink in; everyone’s just stunned now. People will have that deer-in-the-headlights look for a while. The Red Cross is bringing in water. Most of the wells in the area have steel casing so they might get a little banged up but they’re still serviceable. What happens is the pumps burn up.”

At nearby Midwest Pump & Supply, Diane Jackson predicted, “People will start calling within the next week as the damage gets assessed. There probably be a lot of fishing the pumps out of wells and re-doing of the systems.”

When we asked Dale Moreland (Moreland Well Drilling Co.) in Camdenton, Mo., for his thoughts on the future, we struck a nerve. “Eventually the city water is going to put us out completely. Ten or 15 years from now, there won’t be any more mom-and-pop, individual well drilling businesses left,” he bemoaned.

On the bright side, we usually learn a little bit about ourselves in the wake of tragedy and disaster. If there’s a group of people who can rise up and answer the call to make the world a better place, it’s the folks in the drilling industry.

If you are in an area affected by the tornadoes, we’d love to hear from you and get your story. Drop us a line or call me to schedule a telephone interview. All the contact information is included below.

Nominations Being Accepted

The Groundwater Foundation, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about the nature and value of ground water, currently is accepting nominations for three national awards given annually to individuals who have shown dedication in the area of ground water protection. These awards were developed to honor individuals who have created a legacy of ground water protection through local action, education and government service.

Award recipients will receive complimentary travel, lodging and registration for the Groundwater Foundation’s annual conference Nov. 12-15, 2003, in Las Vegas. In addition, award recipients will be honored at an awards luncheon held in conjunction with the conference.

The Groundwater Foundation also is pleased to announce that the 2003 National Awards are sponsored in part by the ChevronTexaco Corp. To receive a printed copy of the “National Awards Program” booklet containing nomination requirements or a copy of the “Awards Recipients” booklet containing brief biographies of past award winners, please send an e-mail request to or call toll free 800-858-4844. Award nomination requirements and 2002 recipient biographies can also be found online at All nominations must be received by July 14, 2003.