Storms with hail and tornadoes swept through southern Indiana, and several other states, on the afternoon of March 2, 2012. I saw on the TV news that a town where I have a lot of relatives, Henryville, Indiana, was hit hard. I called everyone down there I had a number for and could only get voice mail. I sent text messages, no reply. I emailed. Nothing. The pictures on TV were bad, showing the school complex heavily damaged. Finally at 1:50 am on Saturday, March 3rd, my mom-in-law called. She lives outside of Henryville but had been there all day helping. She was just returning home to get some sleep. There was no phone service in Henryville, not even cell service, or power. All our folks in Henryville were OK, but had storm damage. I told her I would be down in the morning. She told me how to get into Henryville from the east on a little used road, since the police were not allowing anyone without a local address on their ID to get in.
I loaded up my vehicle with several tarps, one of them huge, that I had left over from hail damage a few years ago. I also loaded a few pieces of lumber I had on hand, saws, hammers, nails, duct tape, extra work gloves, two cases of water, a bottle of bleach, a box of contractor grade garbage bags, broom and dustpan, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, extra warm clothes and my GHB.
I took I-65 south and the interstate was moving well. 5 miles north of Henryville the rest area had a temporary INDOT info sign that read “Staging area and supplies at rest area” and a line of trucks, some hauling heavy machinery. State troopers with clipboards were talking to the first vehicles in the two lines of traffic. One mile north of the Henryville exit traffic came to a quick halt and then crawled forward slowly. When I got close the the exit I could see more troopers talking with vehicle drivers at the top of the exit ramp. The crawling traffic though was caused just by drivers rubber necking the substantial tornado damage you could see from roadway.
Once past the exit, traffic went back to 70mph. I got off at the next exit, Memphis, IN, and stopped at the truckstop to top off my fuel. The truckstop fuel was cash only, as their credit card line was down. The McDonald's restaurant in the same building had working credit lines, but due to a boil water advisory, had no coffee, soft drinks, etc. I got a bunch of warm food and started working thruough a maze of country roads to get to the the back way in. I finally found the right road.
Unfortunately, there was a state police car blocking the right lane. I pulled up and rolled down my window and said, “My brother in law runs the (deleted for opsec) store in Henryville, he asked me to bring him these tarps.” The trooper looked at the tarps filling the back end of my vehicle, looked at me and said, “OK, I guess you can go through” Man, was I relieved.
I found several of my relatives at the store. The bag of still warm McDonalds food was well received. We used one of my tarps to cover a blown out plate glass window. The security grate on the window was intact. The building is brick and very old. No place to nail the tarp on. So I cut a CB antennae cord that I didn't need and used it as rope to tie the tarp to the security grate. Then we used bits of lumber and plywood jammed into the grate's edge to cover the gap between the grate and the wall.
Two of my nephews had already been removing roofing debris from the roof. They had no work gloves so I gave them each a pair of leather work gloves.We used tar paper and tar to patch the areas where they had removed damaged roofing material.
Later I walked five blocks north to another relative's house. Her insurance adjuster had just left, having told her that her house was a total loss. Her house was closer to the tornado path than the store and had a lot of debris and hail damage. There were big holes in her roof and her west wall. These large holes had let in rain, hail, dirt (now mud) and all the loose insulation from her attic was all through the house. From her porch you could see the destroyed school complex, over two blocks away. You could see it now because the structures that used to block the view were gone.
She was just finishing loading a lot of stuff in her vehicle and didn't want to move anything else that day. She didn't want to tarp the roof because she wasn't planning on trying to save the place. She was still very upset. Only her two step kids had been home when the two tornadoes hit. They are high school students. They took refuge in the bathtub when the first tornado can through and stayed there until the second one passed. They didn't have a basement. The kids had no injuries.
Curfew was at 6pm and by 5:30 I was feeling pretty spent. I had given out all but one small tarp to folks who needed them for temporary roof repairs. Though I was ready to stay there overnight, they really didn't need me, so I headed home.
My lessons from that day were:
Always bring extra leather work gloves to a tornado ravaged area,
warm food is always appreciated in an area with no power,
I should have worn sunblock, because I got a sun/wind burn on my face and neck, and
tarps are very handy for temporary roof repairs.
Oh, an expect problems like power, phone and water outages even outside the heaviest hit areas. So have everything you with you before you get anywhere near.
Nobody needed water, as a lot of it had already been brought in before I got there.
I'll try to get some photos off my phone and upload them here soon.
Browncoat, food & H2O storing Dad. I prepare for times I hope we never see. I don't care, I'm still free, you can't take the sky from me. In the sky, November 2013, Comet ISON may be the brightest iceball to visit us in a 100 years. Or a big disappointment.
My pack is heavy, my boots are tight... Cats and dogs living together...