On March 2 and 3 of 2012, a deadly outbreak of tornadoes occured over a large section of the southern United States, claiming the lives of 41 people in Kentucky, Ohio, Alabama and Indiana.
This was the second deadliest outbreak of tornadoes in March in the United States since official records began being kept in 1950.
There were 70 confirmed tornadoes that touched down, causing a combined total of $3.1 million in damage.
Leading up to the outbreak, February had been more active in terms of tornadoes, with a total of 50. But the first few weeks of February were suspiciously quiet. Everything changed when the last week of February, 15 people were killed in a major tornado outbreak.
On March 1, a moderate risk of severe weather came out in preparation for the following day. The risk went out from Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Dayton, Ohio. On the morning of March 2, the risk went from moderate to high, including Middle Tennessee and Central Kentucky, and the warning continued to expand from there.
Starting in the early morning, many storms broke out, and those storms allowed for strong, warm masses to enter the regions, resulting in larger storms.
In the afternoon, the storms tracked eastward through Louisville and Cincinnati. One of the most notable tornadoes became an EF4 and ripped through Indiana, killing 11 people. Kentucky then became engulfed in a mile-wide EF3 tornado that killed 10 people.
The storms did not let up the following day, continuing to take buildings and lives with it as it ravaged toward the east coast.
Ultimately, 1 person from Alabama died, 22 from Kentucky, 13 in Indiana, and 4 people from Ohio.
THE DESTROYED TOWN OF HENRYVILLE, INDIANA
The tornado that would ultimately destroy the town of Henryville and kill 11 people there and in the neighboring areas of New Pekin and Marysville touched down at 2:50pm as an EF1, snapping trees as it moved northeast. (1)
It began to intensity, passing an EF2 strength and morphing into an EF3, widening greatly and destroying homes as it intensified. It quickly became an EF4 storm, with winds approaching 170mph. (1)
A large factory was completely leveled to its foundation, and debris from the factory was blown for miles. (1)
An entire family of 5 was killed when their mobile home was obliterated. The youngest, a 15-month-old, was found alive in a field, but she later died in the hospital. (2)
The tornado retained its EF4 status as it continued to move, killing another man in his mobile home after he had recorded a video of the tornado approaching him. (1)
Vehicles were tossed and semi-trucks were completely flipped over. Many people had to be extracted from their crushed vehicles. (1)
Though most students and faculty had gone home from the school by this point, many were left behind, huddling in classrooms as the school collapsed around them. They remained mostly uninjured. Cars in the parking lot were destroyed, and a school bus was thrown into a nearby restaurant. (1)
Homes were destroyed, flattened or completely swept away from their foundations as the winds reached 175mph. The storm headed towards Marysville, tossing cars and snapping trees as it went. In Jefferson county, the tornado leveled more homes and killed 3 people who were inside one of them. (1)
Farm machinery was thrown 200 yard. A home was picked up from hits foundation and landed 65 yards away, nearly completely intact. Trees were ripped from their roots. An above-ground pool was ripped from its place and was never found. (1)
Steve Kloepfer who lived in Chelsea, just east of Henryville, saw the storm approaching and decided to drive a few miles away to let it blow through. When he returned, he found that his house had been completely destroyed, and his aunt, uncle and their 4-year-old grandchild were missing. They were found in a field later, dead. (2)
"What we know is we've got complete destruction," Sgt. Jerry Goodin of the Indiana State Police said. "We're going to deal with it the best we can." (2)
Days after the outbreaks ended, a Facebook page was started called "I Found Your Memory" where people shared items that they found miles away, allowing important items and keepsakes to be returned to the people it had blown away from. (1)
Now, 8 years later, some towns are still recovering from the extensive damage and heartbreaking losses as they prepare for another incoming tornado season. Though many of the devastating stories we hear about, from gun violence to war, some of the most horrible things that can happen are natural disasters that not much can be done about.
People who don't live in the mid-west may not understand the fear and devastation of tornadoes, just like you may not understand the impact of hurricanes or fires if you don't live in those areas. But understanding the impact like this: Homes destroyed. Entire families killed. Childrens' bodies found in fields days later. It is a reminder that these natural and environmental disasters have real impacts, and one of the biggest ones happened 8 years ago today.