HENRYVILLE, Ind.--It became apparent during the Henryville tornado ten years ago this month that technology can save lives. Forecasters knew that a tornado outbreak was likely five days in advance, which helped emergency personnel and people in charge of schools plan ahead.
“It was a tragedy in that there was a loss of life in Henryville. But, having been to the school, I can’t emphasize how fortunate it was that the school had let everyone out beforehand,” said Joe Sullivan, with the National Weather Service in Louisville, during a news conference the day the tornado hit.
The WIBC News Special “EF4: The Power of the Henryville Tornado” airs Thursday, March 31, at 7 p.m. on 93 WIBC.
A conference call about 11:30 that morning helped convince school leaders in several districts, including Henryville, that getting students out of the way was probably best for their safety.
Buses left the campus of Henryville schools about 15 minutes before the EF4 tornado hit the town, destroying the schools.
“If we’d have had a couple of hundred kids in there, we would not be standing here saying there was just one fatality. There would have been many fatalities in that school,” said Sullivan.
The years of painstaking work in developing tornado forecasting and warning technology were serving their purpose on Marchg 2, 2012.
“I think it’s a great success of the entire warning program,” said Sullivan, “how it works with the National Weather Service with all of the media, the social media. Everybody knew this was coming and they let school out early so that the kids wouldn’t be there.”
The tornado killed 14 people through southern Indiana and Kentucky, where it dissipated after being on the ground for about 50 miles.