HENRYVILLE — Friday, March 2, 2012, was no different than most days during Lent at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Henryville. Tom Nolot and a handful of other volunteers were preparing for the weekly fish fry in the basement of the church at about 3 p.m.
But in a matter of seconds, March 2 would become like no other in the history of the small Clark County town. Mother Nature saw to that.
As Nolot went outside after weather warnings were issued, he noticed a dark wall of clouds heading toward the town. He ran back inside and along with the other volunteers, “hunkered” down behind a wall until the storm passed. In a matter of seconds, the tornado and large hail that followed changed hundreds of lives and the landscape of Henryville forever.
But despite leveling structures and crippling others like the nearby school, St. Francis was left standing, though the church suffered major damage. The roof’s trusses were snapped and nearly caved through the ceiling. In total, the church received about $250,000 in damages, which have since been repaired.
“It sounded like an explosion,” Nolot said of the tornado which passed through. “We heard a boom in the kitchen and the door was blown off. A large deep-freezer near the door was moved across the kitchen floor.”
Once the tornado left and the hail stopped falling, cars parked in the church lot sat demolished and the scene outside resembled a war zone — or worse.
“My wife looked out the kitchen door toward the school and said ‘everything is gone,’” Nolot said. “There was so much destruction.”
RECEIVING THE CALL
St. Francis Rev. Steve Schaftlein, who is also the priest at St. Michael’s in Charlestown, was in Charlestown preparing for a Friday fish fry there when the storm hit. He had heard the reports about the possibility of severe weather that day, but wasn’t too concerned.