HENRYVILLE, IND. -- Tornadoes are one of the most unstable forces in nature. They typically are born and die within minutes, within a few miles of their birthplace. This tornado, which dropped from the sky at 2:50 p.m. on March 2, barreled across Southern Indiana for the better part of an hour.
Remarkable, too, were the mechanics of the storm.
The typical Indiana tornado lumbers along at 30 mph. This one swept across the state at 60.
It was fast -- and it was powerful. Many Indiana tornadoes produce winds no stronger than 100 mph. This one? Its swirling winds whipped up as strong as 175 mph.
Remembering the 2012 tornado
On the Enhanced Fujita scale, which gauges a tornado's ferocity on a scale of one to five, this tornado at times rated an EF-4. In short, it was one of the most powerful tornadoes ever to hit the state.
Born from a weather system that packed two supercells as it moved through Indiana, the tornado traversed a region of the state that knows what powerful storms look like. Residents along its path remember Hurricane Ike in 2008, tornadoes from 2004 and the last monster tornado that struck, in 1974.
But most who encountered those storms say that what hit them on March 2 topped them all.
March 2nd Henryville, IN Tornado Radar data
Some described what was about to upset their lives as if it were a living animal.
It roared like a beast, they said, and ate the objects in its path. To others, it seemed to stalk them like a predator or pursue them as they fled.
Images of the tornado, captured in photos and on video, show a storm that expanded and contracted, produced fangs and pointed fingers. At times, the tornado even sprouted sisters.
Some accounts of the tornado were deeply personal.
The tornado pulled at people's skin, made their ears pop and their noses bleed. More than one person said the tornado lifted them off the ground. One person described a storm chase in which the tornado seemed to be the one doing the chasing. It ended with a father clinging to his daughter at the threshold of safety, only to feel the tornado try to pull her away.
The tornado cut across three counties (Washington, Clark and Jefferson) and a sliver of a fourth (Scott).
Security cam video of tornado hitting Henryville High School. (Provided by West Clark Community Schools)
Along the way, it demolished mobile homes, manufactured homes, log cabins and even brick McMansions.
It swept into a state forest, thick with trees, and mowed down everything in its path.
It laid waste to Marysville, casting doubt on whether that tiny community will ever recover.
It delivered a direct hit to Henryville, thrashing the high school.
And it killed 11 people.
FIRST RESPONDERS RECALL 2012 HENRYVILLE TORNADO
First responders recall Henryville tornado
For Clark County Indiana Deputy Brian Lovins, Henryville is home. It’s where he grew up and it’s where he’s raising his two teenage daughters.
It’s also where he patrols the streets, although five years ago he remembers a more chaotic scene.
“It’s just a lot to take in," he said.
On March 2, 2012, Henryville would be hit by an EF-4 tornado.
“It sounds like Hell on Earth is the way it really sounds like," Lovins said.
The instincts of the 23 year law enforcement veteran would kick in, but not before worrying about his two children who were on a bus heading home.
“I really had no idea where they were at. I know the route the bus takes. It was almost the same path where the storm was coming through," he explained.
OWNERS OF BUDROE'S RESTAURANT RECALL BUS LANDING IN DINING ROOM DURING 2012 TORNADO
Budroe's Restaurant builds back after tornado
The owners of Budroe’s Restaurant in Henryville knew they had to reopen after the deadly March 2, 2012 tornado destroyed much of their business.
“You can’t sit around and mope," said co-owner Sherman Sykes.
He recalls seeing a tornado heading toward the restaurant and hearing debris flying through the air. Nine people were inside at the time and headed to the basement just as a school bus barreled through the front portion of his restaurant.
“You can’t describe that. Who’d ever think there’d be a bus in your dining room?" he said.
WITNESSES RELIVE TORNADO 5 YEARS LATER
Witnesses relive tornado 5 years later
The view from above shows the stronghold Mother Nature had on southern Indiana five years ago.
Damage was reported in five counties and there were 13 deaths in the Hoosier State by a tornado that touched down on Jeff Hurst’s property.
“For some reason, you felt like something was going to happen,” Hurst told WHAS11.
He lived through the 1974 tornado. It missed his childhood home, but in 2012, he wouldn’t be as lucky. His son lived in the house Hurst grew up in. It took a hit from the tornado, creating massive damage.
STEPHANIE DECKER REFLECTS,
LOOKS AHEAD AFTER TORNADO NEARLY KILLED HER
Stephanie Decker: 5 years after March 2nd tornadoes
Stephanie Decker's story of survival captivated the country. Her will to survive as she shielded her two children from a spawn of tornadoes that hit portions of southern Indiana and northern Kentucky five years ago made national headlines.
She was honored for her heroism by the New York Yankees and even met President Obama at the White House. WHAS11 Chief Meteorologist Ben Pine sat down with Decker to reflect on the moment that changed her life and the work she's now committed to do.
"We look at things as the glass half full, not empty," Stephanie Decker told WHAS11.
It's how she and her family chose to live life. That path of positivity has had its ups and downs, but Decker believes it's the only path worth taking.
"You can either sit on your butt and do nothing and feel sorry for yourself, or you can get up and walk again and do something with it," she said.
Decker's done a lot of walking since losing portions of both of her legs - sacrificing her own body to protect her two kids as their home collapsed on top of them. It was a result from an EF-4 tornado that hit in their home on March 2, 2012.
ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION:
A round table discussion with the WHAS11 weather team talking about the Henryville tornado.
THOSE WHO DIED:
-Joe Babcock, 21
-Moriah Brough, 20
-Jaydon Babcock, 2
-Angel Babcock, 15 months
-Kendall Babcock, 2 months
-Wayne Hunter, 62
-Christianus Govers, 72
-Terry Jackson, 70
-Carol Jackson, 70
-Daylynn Jackson, 4
-John K. Poyner, 30
THE TORNADO'S VITAL STATISTICS:
Offical name: Southern Indiana Long Track EF-4
Starting point: Fredericksburg, In.
Starting time: 2:50 p.m. March 2, 2012
End point: Trimble County, Ky. (4.8 miles east of the Ohio River)
End time: 3:39 p.m.
Miles covered: 49 miles
Total time: 49 minutes
Maximum winds: 175 mph
Enhanced Fujita Scale rating: EF-4
Sources: National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
ASSESSING THE DAMAGE:
FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has been taking applications and dispersing money for tornado-related damage to homes and property not covered by private insurance, as well as medical and funeral expenses. Here are the totals, as of May 21, for the 49-mile tornado that began in Fredericksburg on March 2.
Applications for FEMA assistance: 1,377
Washington County: 290
Clark County: 1,004
Scott County: 33
Total Disbursements: $1.43-million