We had a lot of people checking up on us last week, what with all the storm activity in our part of the world. Early Wednesday morning, we had an EF-1 tornado touchdown about a half mile from here (as the crow flies). Amazingly, with a storm that close to us, nothing was even out of place here at our place. Later that morning, I could hear the sounds of chain saws as a few downed trees were cleaned up. It was the third tornado to hit our little town since 2004.
But the bigger storms rolled in on Friday afternoon. Once again we were lucky, as tornadoes hit all around us. Another major threat with these storms was hail, with some baseball sized pieces coming down to the north of us in Gibson County. We got .06 inches of rain, but that was it. We got no hail, and no damage. There was one little tree limb blown down.
As the news reports started coming in, it was obvious that not everyone was so fortunate. Southeastern Indiana was especially hard hit. We have friends in that area, and we were all checking up on each other after the storms had passed. Bill and Jody live in New Albany, and they too escaped any damage. But they both had relatives in Henryville, which got hit full force with a massively destructive EF-4 twister. Jody’s brother Charlie and his wife Chris were unhurt, but their house was totally demolished.
Bill and Jody went to Henryville on Sunday to help their relatives with the cleanup. Bill sent back some photos, and I got his permission to share some of them.
Chris and their two girls hid in the basement before the storm hit. That may very well have saved their lives. But it was still a scary place to be. The tornado ripped the flooring right off, and even sucked the basement steps right out of the house. They had to build makeshift steps with concrete blocks to get out of the basement. You can see the blocks in the upper right corner of the above photo. The tree narrowly missed them. Later they found a full, unopened two-liter Pepsi bottle on the basement floor, but nobody in their house even drinks Pepsi!
Outside the house, the destructive force of the tornado was hard to imagine. Houses and cars were tossed about like toys. Charlie and Chris had a camping trailer parked in their backyard that has totally vanished – blown away completely to who-knows-where by the tornado.
I have often heard stories about how a straw can be imbedded in a tree by the force of a tornado. Bill found a sofa pillow laying across a tree limb. When he tried to pick up the pillow, it was imbedded in the limb. Bill described the mood there as ‘somber’, with everyone talking in a ‘hushed, quiet, reverent tone’. People were coming up constantly and offering food, water, gloves, and to help in any way possible. The insurance company was quick to help also, with cash for living expenses and with assistance finding lodging.
Long after the media trucks are gone, the folks in Henryville – and all the other folks hit by Friday’s storms, will still be picking up the pieces. Rebuilding houses and other structures will take a long time. It will take even longer to rebuild confidence and overcome the fears of future storms. It is safe to say that no one who lived through the tornado will soon forget it. And there are lessons to be learned. My wife and I are rethinking our storm preparedness plans. Just going to the basement won’t be good enough any more. We also need to be under something sturdy, and not under the basement steps.
As I sit here this morning, with a gentle rain falling, I am so very thankful for the roof over my head and the warm bed I slept in last night. My heart goes out to all the tornado victims, as do my thoughts and prayers.