RedEye staffers visited Henryville, Indiana, the day after tornadoes hit the town and surrounding areas. Photojournalism students Patrick Haertel (11), Seth Fischer (12), and Tara Steiden (11) captured the damage and the activity of volunteers and Henryville residents that Saturday, March 3.
Read the article about the staffers’ trip to Henryville here →
See video footage of the damaged schools and residences here →
One woman, pictured above in red, was a member of a family whose various generations lived in houses side-by-side along Henryville’s main road that had borne some of the brunt of the storm’s damage. Her elderly mother (not pictured above) was yet to be moved to a temporary, safe place of residence.
Families packed salvageable belongings into sets of storage bins—everyone was outside that Saturday.
Like a miniature meteor shower, hail came down hard on everything in its path. As we walked around Henryville, there was not a home that had not suffered apparent hail damage.
Trees from the forested areas surrounding Henryville and from the town itself were torn from the earth and had to be lifted and removed by construction workers.
Trash and scattered belongings from damaged homes were swept out of the way as workers attempted to organize the madness of the storm’s mess.
In some places, what had once been dense foliage had become sparse, broken trunks of trees.
Response to damages was relatively quick by construction workers in the area.
State troopers patrolled the entire Henryville area.
The deserted-yet-chaotic feel of Henryville was contributed to by the presence of off-kilter power lines on streets buried in debris with no residents in sight.
One necessity the storm robbed Henryville residents of was privacy. Homes were ripped open, and for the time being, everyone was forced to depend on the help of everyone else.
In some cases, homeowners had been unsafe in their own houses as the strong winds broke windows and rushed inside.
Nearly everyone was cleared out of Henryville Elementary, Middle, and High by the time the worst of the tornado hit, but the roughly twenty people remaining reported feeling very close to death, crouched in school bathrooms surrounded by the rushing sounds of fierce winds and the sound of glass breaking.
One woman who made a living as a caterer used excess food from the police department headquarters to cook massive quantities of free meals to give to anyone who asked for one.
Some abandoned vehicles were left in the eerily deserted gym parking lot of the Henryville schools. Most cars in the area were windowless after harsh hailstorms.
House pets from demolished homes were kept safe, away from the reconstruction efforts.
Volunteers by the dozens helped pass out plates of food to anyone in need of it, headquartered at the still-intact Henryville Community Church.
Officials stood by answering questions and attempting to clear up confusion.
Families left without a hazard-free home to stay in gathered outside, kids in tow. The girl above holds a chunk of hail the size of her fist.
Staffers encountered a pair of state troopers who had to help us get clearance to leave Henryville; officials were attempting to close off the most damaged areas of the town to reduce unnecessary traffic in and out.
One man picked up several lumps of hail (pictured above) and placed them in his freezer as a reminder of their unbelievable size.
During the storm, one school bus was lifted into the air and thrown into a small maintenance repair shop.
From toys, tools, and bits of plywood to machinery as large as washing machines, all kinds of miscellaneous material could be found great distances from where they had once been.
It may be a cliche, but the Henryville hail literally was golfball-sized—and larger. The hail-beaten ground looked as though it had survived a war.
Plans had not been finalized for where students would attend school following the storms, which demolished Henryville’s Elementary, Middle, and High Schools.
Volunteers in Henryville handed out bottled water to those working construction jobs and cleaning up debris in the heat.
Though there were many homes left relatively unscathed, some were torn entirely off their foundations. Half of the main church in Henryville was destroyed.