911 Calls Detail Holton Tornado’s Aftermath

Posted On March 21, 2012

Residents look over the remains of their home after an EF3 tornado struck the town of Holton on March 2

file photo

(Holton, Ind.) – When an EF3 tornado ripped through Holton on March 2, Ripley County Communications became flooded with calls for help.


Frantic callers described the horrific aftermath of the devastation done by the twister. The first calls came in at the call center in Versailles just seconds after the stroke of 4:00 that Friday afternoon.


“I’m sitting in Holton, Indiana and I just got picked up by the tornado,” David Pennycuff told the dispatcher in a shaken voice.


Pennycuff was driving a van on U.S. 50 when he crossed paths with the tornado packing winds of up to 145 MPH. The vehicle was tossed around like a toy.


“I’m sitting in my truck after Sizemore’s old garage in somebody’s yard. It’s totally destroyed through here. Oh my God, my back!”




Pennycuff was one of dozens transported to area hospitals by EMTs from around Ripley County who responded to the scene.


Teresa Arnold placed a 911 call when the home belonging to her sister and her husband – Ted and Brenda Tolbert – was decimated.


“In Holton the tornado hit. There are people trapped in trailers,” Arnold said. “There’s two people trapped. It looks like there may be other people trapped in trailers.”


The Tolbert’s had each suffered a broken neck. As of last week, they remained at UC Health’s Drake Center rehabilitating from their injuries.


Another unidentified caller was clearly upset as he was shouting during his call.


“There is a guy that was in his trailer and he went with the trailer! The trailer is gone and he’s laying on the ground. His head is bleeding,” the caller said as he stood in the midst of the destruction along Versailles Street.


Dispatchers appeared to remain calm through the calls as they rushed to send EMTs, police, and firefighters to the scene.


“I need you to apply pressure to his head with a clean cloth, okay? Just stay on the phone with me,” the dispatcher advised.


A group of people could be heard in the background yelling and tending to the injured 58-year-old tornado victim.


Two people died in the Holton tornado, which was on the ground for nine miles.


Eighteen homes and 14 businesses were destroyed. Ripley County Emergency Management said the total dollar amount of damage was estimated at about $6 million.




Severe Weather Preparedness Week Is Here


Holton Couple Rehabbing From Tornado Injuries


Gov. Requests More Storm Assistance


IDHS One-Stop Shop In Holton Wednesday


Lt. Gov. Skillman To View Holton Tornado Damage


Numbers Show How Destructive Tornadoes Were


Most Tornado Deaths Involved Trailers


Pres. Signs Disaster Declaration For Six Counties


Gov. Requests Federal Aid For Six Counties


Tetanus Vaccine Clinic Friday In Holton


SDMS Sending School Supplies To Tornado Victims


Salvation Army In Holton Thurs., Fri.


Red Cross Opens Client Assistance Centers


Funeral Announced For Second Holton Victim


Rep. Frye to Host Disaster Relief Meeting


IDHS, FEMA Assess Holton Tornado Damage


Holton Tornado Donation Surge Continues


Funeral For Tornado Victim Tuesday


ISP Give Tornado Donation Tips


Tornado Cleanup Underway In Holton


NWS Confirms EF3 Tornado In Holton


IDHS Gives Latest On Tornado Response Efforts


US 50 Closed In Holton Saturday


Tornadoes: “It Hit Before We Knew It”