Hello from TennesseeApril 18th, 2012 at 11:10 pm by Bill Steffen under Bill's Blog, Weather
I spent almost all of Tuesday touring tornado damaged areas from Henryville, Indiana to the Ohio River and then across into Kentucky. I did not go west of Henryville. The main tornado went across I-65 right at the Henryville exit (route 160). There was about 20 miles of damage west of Henryville and 30 miles to the east, which I did explore. I spent most of my time talking to survivors and to relief workers to find out what worked and didn’t work and what I could do better on TV before, during and after a tornado event. The lady heading the effort for the United Way went to school at Aquinas in G.R. The main story here is the “March 2 Recovery”, which is a plan that will take 16 months to 2 years. The tornado occurred on March 2. Here’s a radar loop of the event. There have been over 7,000 volunteers. Everywhere you looked there was construction, clean-up and demolition going on. At the relief center there were dozens of clipboards up on a wall…one for work needed in a certain area and one for volunteers. There was a sheet for plumbers donating time (some drive down from Indianapolis or up from Louisville on Saturdays to work) and one for plumbing work needed. The schools are being rebuilt and should be ready for kids in September. There were 3 main staging areas for relief. I visited two of them. This was an EF4 with a continuous damage path of at least 49 miles (actually two tornadoes from two distinct storms). I saw where the tornado went up the side of the bluff as it crossed over the Ohio River…just in that place there were hundreds of trees uprooted. I saw where 30 people huddled in the basement of a church – many of them autistic kids. The church collapsed into the basement, barely missing the 30 kids, who happened to be in about the only safe place in the basement. Just to the north was the house where the woman lost her legs saving her children as their house was swept away. Next to that house was a large tent where 3 meals a day are cooked for volunteers…all free…all privately funded (locally funded)…started by a cook (Billy) who comes every day and has breakfast ready at 6 AM before he drives to his job. Some volunteers start working 15 minutes before sunrise. Half a mile down the road is where Harlan Sanders (KFC) grew up…his parents and most of his family are buried in the cemetery next to the church where the kids survived the tornado. His old house is gone now. In front of the church (nothing left but the shell of the basement), someone fashioned a cross out of two branches held together with a piece of rope. I heard about the dog found not too long after the tornado 7 miles from home. People still wonder if it could have been carried by the twister. I saw a large board with notes from people who had found or were still looking for a pet. Some lost notes came with a picture of their pet written by kids those notes could bring tears to your eyes. I could write a long article about the pet rescues…not just dogs and cats, but cows and horses wandering off with no fences left to hold them. Vets have come to donate their time. This was a perfect vacation day for me….moving at my own pace and letting people tell their story. I took a lot of notes and I’ll write more later. One criticism I heard often is that TV stayed in Henryville and didn’t get out to tell other stories from rural areas or smaller towns. On TV we have limited time, but we do have the internet and lots of room to tell those stories (with the help of those who help to report it) on the web. The picture here is houses leveled between Henrysville and Marysville – I went down this road – picture from NWS Louisville.