How the Mayfield tornado compares to Henryville, and how 2012 survivors are reacting

The devastating tornado outbreak that ripped through Western Kentucky over the weekend and left at least 75 dead and 100-plus missing was unprecedented, but it isn't without comparison.

One of the most similar cases occurred nearly 10 years ago about 25 miles north of Louisville.

Henryville, a small town in Southern Indiana, and the region around it, was rocked by a series of tornadoes on March 2, 2012. Like the 2021 storms, that outbreak hit several states and forced a massive relief effort.

EF3, or higher? Early estimates of the strength and size of the main Kentucky tornado

What happened in Henryville?

About 10 tornadoes touched down in communities from Henryville, Indiana, to West Liberty, Kentucky in March 2012.

The largest of the tornadoes had a wind speed of about 175 mph, enough to be considered an EF-4 tornado, and caused major damage in the region, including in Henryville.

Hundreds were injured, and 34 people died in Indiana and Kentucky.

How does the Henryville tornado compare to the Mayfield tornado?

The largest of the March 2012 tornadoes — the one that decimated Henryville — was classified as an EF-4 tornado by the National Weather Service.

Preliminary reports on the largest of the December 2021 tornadoes from the National Weather Service — the one that devastated Mayfield — say it was at least an EF-4 tornado. That rating, officials have said, could change.

Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday he thinks the tornado could eventually get categorized as an EF-5, which has wind speeds over 260 mph.

How Henryville is reacting to Kentucky tornadoes

For those that survived the Henryville tornado — including Stephanie Decker, who lost both legs while protecting her children during the storm in 2012 — seeing the images out of Mayfield and other Kentucky communities were "devastating."

"It brings back a lot of memories for my entire family," she said, noting that her family was "preparing" Friday given their Southern Indiana town's proximity to the area that was hit.

Decker said she understands what many are going through but added, given her whole family survived, she can't imagine what these days have been like for those that lost loved ones.

"The best advice I can give is to be patient," she said. "It's going to be hard, and there is no easy road out of it."

Pastor Isaiah Turner, who works with students and families at the First Baptist Church of Henryville, said he's heard similar things from Henryville residents he's spoken with since the tornadoes hit Kentucky.

"It is an emotional time. Several people have said that, just as they've watched this, it's brought back so many memories," he said. "And, you know, it seems like it was yesterday, even though it's almost 10 years ago now."

Tuner spent much of Wednesday working with middle and high school students on making holiday cards to send to Mayfield. One of the most common refrains, he said, was expressing a unique sense of empathy.

"They were young," he said, "but they remember."

How Henryville is helping Kentucky

Both Decker and Turner said they and the rest of the Henryville community are eager to pay forward the kindnesses they received after the 2012 tornadoes.

The Stephanie Decker Foundation, Decker said, is already working on ways to send help.

"We haven't forgotten what it's like to go through it," she said.

And one of First Baptist's deacons was in Mayfield on Wednesday, Turner said, to drop off donations and meet with local faith leaders to see what else Henryville can do to help.

How to help Kentucky tornado victims: Donate to relief funds, supplies and blood drives

Decker said she hopes the outpouring of goodwill will help heal Mayfield like it helped her town.

"You will be amazed at the community outreach you'll see nationwide," she said. "That alone helps you move forward — knowing that there are so many people that want to help you and will help you. It softens that road a little."

Mary Ramsey is a breaking news reporter for The Courier Journal. Reach her at, and follow her on Twitter @mcolleen1996. Support strong local journalism in our community by subscribing to The Courier Journal today.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: How 2021 Mayfield, Kentucky, tornado compares to Henryville in 2012