JESSIEVILLE, Ark. – Following Monday’s EF1 tornado at Jessieville, the National Weather Service said the school district and the houses around it suffered the most damage.
The NWS said it was “a short-lived tornado” however those in the community say it left a big impact and a lot of damage to clean up.
Aidyn Reyes is in the 8th grade at Jessieville Middle School and said the tornado was a shock to him as it came out of nowhere when he and other students were in the band room.
“All of a sudden, winds started picking up and I was looking outside, and I started seeing the trees and they started to go over, and I was like ‘That’s not normal’,” Reyes said. ”I started seeing the roof go off the building and that’s when we moved into the hall.”
Reyes said once he and other students were in the hallway, they were quickly moved by a school staff member to the school’s safe room.
School officials said hundreds and students and staff were in the safe room. Superintendent Melissa Speers said the entire district had to act fast once the tornado came.
“It happened before we even had an alert,” Speers said.
Dennis Cavanaugh, a Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the NWS said because the tornado came so fast they didn’t have enough time to issue a tornado warning but added because of how quickly the school responded he believes that saved lives.
Speers also said she felt like their system of handling severe weather worked but next week officials and administration will still get together to talk about if there are any improvements they can make.
“Talking about what works, talking about some things that would make a process especially releasing students a little more efficient,” Speers said.
Speers said thankfully no students were hurt but two of her staff members did suffer minor injuries.
She said that though the school might physically look different when everyone returns next week, their school spirit and support is strong.
“Things are going to look a little different When kids come back on campus Monday but we’re still going to be the same,” Speers said.
Cavanaugh said everyone should be aware of the cues to look out for when it comes to a tornado.
“Some of those cues [when a tornado comes in] the wind picks up and then all of a sudden, it’s calm and silent. But all of sudden it gets very windy, it starts raining really heavy, and then there’s a violent wind,” Cavanaugh said.
For hours on Tuesday, crews from across the county came to help pick up debris from the school. Speers said she captured video of the tornado moving across the football field, damaging some of their stadium pole lights, scoreboard and field.
“The major damage is to the school’s roofs, and we’ve got some pretty significant damage in our football field,” Speers said.
Shauna Wood’s mother lives across from the school and she said the school became her mother’s haven when the tornado ripped through town and caused part of a tree to come down on her house.
“A gentleman across the street rescued her out [of her home] and brought her to the school where we have some family at the school,” Wood said.
Woods said her family was out most of Tuesday helping fix some of the damage to her mother’s home. As for Reyes, he says he also helped move debris out of the way from his family’s business that is across the street from the school when a part of a tree fell on it.
“I’m helping my family clean up the business that we got here because a tree fell,” Reyes said.
Reyes said it still feels unreal to believe all the damage that the tornado did to the school district.
“I looked up and I saw the big light poles over there and I was like ‘oh man that’s bad’,” Reyes said.
Speers said from Tuesday to Friday students and staff will do Alternative Methods of Instruction (AMI) days as they try to spend the rest of the week rebuilding and hope by next week to have school back open.