Henryville Tornado: Some Video Captures from the Storm’s Early Stages

This year, 2013, has once again been lousy for me from a storm chasing perspective. My two forays out to Oklahoma and Kansas yielded nothing in terms of tornadoes. Some cool gustnadoes, but that's it, unless you count a glimpse of a decaying tube so fleeting that it's barely worth mentioning. My best chase of the year was right here in Michigan. And my worst was unquestionably on November 17 down in Indiana, when a road accident claimed my beloved Toyota Camry. So since I have nothing to show for this season, I thought I would grab a few stills from my video of the March 2, 2012, Henryville, Indiana, tornado, just to remind myself that I've actually had some decent chases. The shots, arranged sequentially, show the tornado from where Bill and I first glimpsed it shortly after touchdown as we were approaching Palmyra from the south, to its intensifying and mature stages north of town, where it tore across SR 135, ripping up a 12' x 12' chunk of asphalt in the process, and then raged northeastward toward New Pekin and then its deadly visitation on Henryville. These are just video grabs, and our vehicle was moving at a good clip as I shot the footage, so the images are by no means tack-sharp. But they still give a pretty good feel of a memorable chase. They're arranged in proper sequence, so you can see the variations the tornado went through on its way to becoming a raging EF-4 monster. I intend to add a few more images, but the eleven I've included here are most of the show and plenty enough to tell the story. (I don't know why the one showing the power flash turned out so small; I plan to replace it with a larger image.)

Photos from the April 14, 2012, Kansas Tornado Outbreak

May has been an astonishingly idle month for chasing storms, at least from the standpoint of a Michigan-based chaser who can't afford to travel a thousand miles to tornado alley on every whim and wish of a slight-risk day. So tonight I finally got around to capturing a few still images from my video of the April 14, 2012, tornadoes in Kansas. Please excuse the graininess. These are, after all, video grabs, and the original footage was shot right around and after sunset. So ... not high quality, but great memories of an exciting and rewarding chase day. You can read my written account of it here.

Elkhart County Historical Museum Remembers the 1965 Palm Sunday Tornadoes

My friend Debbie Watters, prorieter of the 1965 Palm Sunday Tornado Memorial Park in Dunlap, Indiana, sent me the following article from the Elkhart Truth newspaper:
It's been almost 44 years since the Palm Sunday tornado tore through Elkhart County, killing dozens and injuring hundreds. It will be the focus of a special program at a local museum.
The Elkhart County Historical Museum is organizing a remembrance of the April 11, 1965, di saster. The memorial will be from 2 to 4 p.m. April 5 at the museum, 304. W. Vistula, Bristol.
Nicholas Hoffman, director and curator of the museum, said the tornado is an important part of local history.
"It was a really big occurrence that impacted many people," Hoffman said.
Patrick Murphy, a meteorologist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, will talk about how tornadoes form and the factors that led to the 1965 tornado outbreak that spawned 40 tornadoes across the Midwest and left 271 people dead.
"We're really excited to have NOAA participating in this event with us because they're certainly the experts on these events," Hoffman said.
A panel of survivors of the Palm Sunday tornado will take questions after Murphy's presentation.
The panel will include John Clark, a retired Elkhart police officer, and Paul Huffman, the retired Elkhart Truth photographer who snapped the famous photo of the twin twisters.
"[Huffman] captured the horror of that day with one photograph," said the curator.
There will be an open microphone portion for anyone interested in talking about the disaster.
The museum will also provide table space for collectors to display items they found in the wake of the tornado.
For more information call the museum at 848-4322.
Of course I plan on attending. My interest in the Palm Sunday Tornadoes extends back to my childhood, and in recent months it has become an area of increasing research. I am particularly excited to learn that Paul Huffman--whose photograph of the twin funnels striking the Midway Trailer Court, remains one of the most dramatic, all-time classic tornado photos ever taken--will be one of the panelists. That's just my opinion, but I think that many severe weather meteorologists, tornado historians, and storm chasers will agree. Over the years I have viewed hundreds of tornado photos. I have seen some incredible images, ranging from the sublime to the scary, but nothing quite like that old black-and-white snapped over forty years ago by a young press photographer as he stood in the inbounds with his camera just a few hundred yards from mayhem, witnessing the last moments of a community.
I hope to get a chance to talk with Mr. Huffman. I also look forward to meeting Pat Murphy, lead forecaster for the Northern Indiana NWS. He and I have connected previously concerning the Palm Sunday Tornadoes, and have made plans to get together next week Sunday, April 11--the 44th anniversary of the outbreak--to trace the paths of some of the twisters. But that's a separate story, and while this is an area of personal fascination for me, there's also another, parallel motive which I'm hesitant to divulge just yet.
Stay tuned, though. You'll be reading more about the 1965 Palm Sunday Tornadoes in this blog.
And on that note, I invite you to leave a comment if you experienced the Palm Sunday Tornadoes firsthand. If you are a storm survivor, or if you possess personal, unpublished photographs or old film footage of one of the actual tornadoes, I would love to hear from you.