MIFFLINTOWN - Midafternoon on March 2, Sandra Miller, of Mifflintown, got a frantic phone call from her brother in Henryville, Ind.
Henryville had just been hit by two tornadoes. One of them was an EF-4 on the Enhanced Fujita scale of measuring a tornado's force, that packed winds in excess of 175 mph and was on the ground for 52 miles, carving a path of destruction 150 yards wide through the center of town, according to the National Weather Service.
John Miller, who is originally from Mifflintown, couldn't reach his wife by phone and had no idea where his two children and three grandchildren were.
The heavily-damaged gym at Henryville High School in Henryville, Ind., is seen following a deadly series of tornadoes that swept across the Midwest and Southeast last week.
Through some roundabout communication via his sister in Mifflintown, he eventually found out everyone was unharmed, but for several hours Miller was a "nervous wreck."
Earlier that afternoon Miller had been at a friend's farm when he heard the first tornado siren go off. Not long after that, the sky turned green and a tornado began to form nearby.
"Then it started to hail - dime-sized and nickel-sized to baseball-sized just that quick," Miller said. "The tornado came down out of the clouds; it was coming down and as it was coming toward us we were trying to decide where to go ... you could smell the pine tar from the pine trees.
"We heard this noise. It sounds like a train ... when they say it sounds like a locomotive, it does," Miller said of the tornado.
When Miller heard the second siren go off, he knew it was time to go and he and his friend left to check on the children who were just getting out of school.
"The schools already had a heads up ... let the children out a little early ... the buses were at the school to load up. Of course, I didn't know this," Miller said. "My wife was coming home early. I didn't know this at the time."
As Miller approached town with his friend, they were blocked by a freight train that had to stop at a crossing because of debris from one of the tornadoes.
It took him several hours to get home, because so many roads were closed or impassable.
Later, Miller would find out from his kids and grandkids what transpired as they were loaded on to the buses to go home.
Miller said the principal of the school that houses 1,200 students made the right call in sending the kids home early because half of the school was obliterated from the tornado.
Miller said that at a recent town hall meeting it was announced that engineers determined half of the school was salvageable and plans are already in the works to rebuild the damaged portion of the building.
As the buses left school, the last two buses, one of which carried Miller's grandkids, saw the tornado approaching and turned around and brought the children back to the school to take shelter. The children survived in an unscathed portion of the school.
"Our two boys' rooms are gone. Had they been held at school, it would have been ugly. People can armchair quarterback, but it was the right move ... they radioed the rest of the school buses and told them to stop en route and find shelter," Miller said.
Miller said the bus pulled into a new development where the kids began knocking on doors. They all took shelter in basements. One of the boys on the bus sent a text message to Miller's wife saying everyone was OK.
Miller said the destruction to Henryville was devastating, but his house, on the outskirts of town was relatively unscathed, sustaining only some damage from the hail.
"You have to see it with your own eyes to really comprehend what happened," Miller said.
The response from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross, as well as some non-profit groups that handle disasters, came immediately following the storm, Miller said.
"They had someone there to take care of anything and everything you can think of," Miller said.
The National Weather Service also confirmed that four tornadoes hit eastern Kentucky that day with EF-2 and EF-3 ratings. The scale ranges from EF-0 to EF-5, with anything an EF-2 or higher carrying winds upward of 113 mph. The NWS says EF-3 tornadoes touched down in three separate Kentucky counties, with a slightly-weaker EF-2 sweeping through further south.