North Central HS students react to harrowing surveillance video that captured tornado

Published: Jan. 20, 2020 at 5:54 PM EST
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KERSHAW COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - Stunning surveillance video released late last week shows the moment an EF2 tornado ripped through North Central High School in Kershaw County.

The video shows the storm tear through the roof, opening up hallways, windows, and classrooms to 130 miles per hour winds. Ceiling tiles, posters and glass litter the hallways and floors. After about 15 seconds, everything goes still and quiet.

“I’m not happy this happened but I’m glad it didn’t hit anything around here because it could have it people’s homes so I just thank god it hit our school and nothing else,” Anna Garbade, a junior, said.

Several seniors WIS spoke to had not seen then the surveillance video, which was released on Friday by the district. Using a laptop, students watched the video, some for the first time.

“Oh gosh, I walk down that hall all the time!” said Garbade. “This storm was so strong this is crazy!”

Jared Chavez, a senior, had seen glimpses of the video over the weekend. In addition to being shocked by the images, Chavez said he learned something about tornadic activity.

“Whenever you think of a tornado you kind of think of it lasting a lot longer than it did,” he said. “From the surveillance video, you see the front office and it’s just sitting there nice and neat like Ms. Hamm left it, and then all of a sudden, it’s like, whoosh, gone. The whole ceiling is gone, the windows are busted, her books are everywhere--it’s just crazy to think how quick it went through there.”

The video shows the hallways with windows and exterior doors suffered serious damage, but those interior hallways with limited access to the outside fared better.

“It’s just crazy to think what would have happened if we had been at the school,” senior Madison Dixon said. “We hide in the hallways for our tornado drills and its crazy to see what happened even to the hallways with no windows.”

District officials estimate nearly 100 percent of the building’s roof was torn off in the 15 seconds the storm passed over the school. As a result, rainfall made its way into the school, flooding much of what remained.

“Having been a student here, a teacher and a coach and now an administrator, it’s crazy to see,” Chad Dixon, principal of North Central Middle School, said. “I go by every morning kind of mesmerized and wondering when it’s going to change. People have been here cleaning up and we’ve seen a lot of that but it’s been difficult. You grow up seeing one thing and then change happens.”

Dixon said he went inside the school with Superintendent Shane Robbins in the immediate aftermath of the storm. He said some areas of the school were flooded underneath ankle-deep water from several days of heavy rainfall.

The district has not released any final damage estimates but anticipates the number will rise into the millions of dollars.

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