EF-2 Tornado Rips Through North Central High School (S.C.)
Damage is estimated to be in the millions of dollars and the district’s superintendent said it could be 18 months until students are able to return.
An EF-2 tornado with winds up to 130 MPH tore through a Kershaw County, South Carolina school Saturday, ripping off parts of the roof and leveling exterior walls.
The tornado, which was part of a weather system blamed for 11 deaths nationwide, struck North Central High School around 10:30 p.m. Saturday. District officials estimate the tornado caused millions of dollars of damage.
“When I walked through it was like a war zone. I couldn’t believe all the damage,” South Carolina State Guard Second Battlion Commander Jason Ross told Fox News. “We haven’t seen something like this in a long time. Something like this is a big blow to the community.”
The tornado partially collapsed concrete stadium bleachers and threw the press box from its foundation, lifted HVAC units off the roof — along with most of the roof itself — and collapsed the exterior wall of an auditorium. Photos of the damage can be found here.
“The tornado came through the center of the building so where it was hit, it’s like a war zone. Windows are blasted out, debris all over. They’re just demolished. And then on the outskirts some classrooms look just fine,” said Doug Bowling, safety and security coordinator for the Kershaw County School District. “There is water damage throughout the school. A lot of glass, debris, electrical items hanging and then no roofs.”
The school is roped off and officials are trying to salvage as much equipment and data as possible. On Tuesday, teachers and district officials entered the building to assess the damage. Insurance adjusters also spent the day surveying the damage and will continue to do so throughout the week.
“The first structural engineer did say that the walls themselves were very stable but when our adjuster looks at it they’re going to look at the other extraneous pieces of this and if the expense to renovate is greater than 50 percent or so, they’ll make us demolish it and start fresh,” said Superintendent Shane Robbins.
Students and staff returned to school Wednesday at the Applied Technology Education Campus, the district’s old vocational building. Food trucks will be brought in to feed students since the building does not have a cafeteria. Students aren’t expected to be returning to North Central any time soon.
“Because it damaged 100% of the roof and the roof was destroyed, we have a lot of water penetration and once that gets into cement boards, drywall, carpet, all of our wiring, technology is really destroyed. It’s a mess,” Robbins said. “I am hoping they’re able to come in, in 18 months, it’s that bad. We have enough of the building destroyed that every piece of the roof is going to have to be replaced.”
The tornado also damaged 28 out of 30 school buses, according to WACH. Six were damaged extensively and four were totaled. The district has since received 28 new buses from other districts across the state.
Graduation typically takes place in the highly damaged football stadium, so Robbins is making its restoration a priority.
“I talked to the contractors already and said if you can demolish and get the stadium pieces that are in bad shape, removed, so we can make the site safe, we’ll have graduation,” he said.