Communities in Indiana, Kentucky Commemorate Tornado Anniversary

Saturday marks one year from the day tornados raked across the Midwest and South, killing 40 across the country and nearly obliterating towns like Marysville and Henryville in Indiana and West Liberty, Kentucky.

Here’s what I found when I arrived in Marysville right after the tornado:

Some of the worst damage was in southern Indiana. Only an hour after one tornado tore through Marysville, Bobby Fulkerson tried to save his son’s possessions. He stood on the porch roof, which had been moved about 12 feet from the storm.

“It’s a mess,” he said.

The wind was still gusting as Fulkerson picked gingerly around his son’s house. He nailed boards over the shattered windows to prevent further damage as his 10-year-old granddaughter, Laakin, poked her head out. She was kept at school over in Charlestown during the storm

“Somebody on my bus told me that Marysville is completely destroyed, and … I panicked and started crying,” she said.

Marysville isn’t completely destroyed — the tiny town’s post office and hardware store are still standing — but the main residential areas are leveled.

Four-wheel, all-terrain vehicles zoom by. With streets blocked by downed trees, this is the fastest way to get around.

Rescue workers went house-to-house searching for survivors as some residents were packing up. One carried a dog, another a basketful of books.

The tornado hit Marvin Tucker’s home, shearing off the roof and breaking the windows.

“We [were] in one room and it hit … it took a dresser that was over next to one wall and just flipped it over,” he said.

In Henryville, it wasn’t much better. Across the street from the partially-leveled school, a school bus sat inside where a restaurant used to be. Two days after the storm, people milled around organizing donated clothes and bottled water. Students wondered where they’d be going to school, and whether there would be a prom and graduation.

Here’s an audio slideshow with some pictures and voices from the communities affected by the storm:

A year later, progress has been made but none of the towns are quite like they were before the storm.

The Associated Press reports that a lot of buildings have been rebuilt in West Liberty, but empty lots are common. An influx of nearly $30 million in federal, state and private money will go toward building a youth recreation center, a new cooperative extension office and a new parking garage, as well as renovating and restoring the county office building, community center and old county courthouse.

There’s also been progress in Henryville. The Marathon gas station off I-65 was demolished in the tornado, but reopened recently. Students returned to their rebuilt school last August, and the town will hold a parade and ceremony there tomorrow to commemorate the storm’s one-year anniversary.
 
In Kentucky, Governor Steve Beshear has called for a moment of silence, beginning at 6:00pm tomorrow–about the time some of the worst storms moved through the state.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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