SWEETWATER (WATE) – Heavy rain and strong wind came into East Tennessee on Wednesday. Residents reported power outages and building damage.
Sweetwater City Schools closed early at 12:30 p.m. because of storm damage. Strong winds blew parts of the roof all over the junior high school’s campus. Parts of the ceiling came down indoors, exposing duct-work and pouring an unwanted mess onto the ground. The building suffered water damage as well.
“We didn’t know what it was because the power went out. We just heard some very loud noises in the gym,” said Jaime Downs, principal at Sweetwater Junior High School.
Downs said she looked out the window earlier in the morning and decided to get students into the hallways, following their tornado protocol.
“At first you worry about your children and grandchildren because you never know what could happen to them,” said Wanda Hicks who was picking up her grandson.
At the time of the storm, about 130 children and two teachers were in the gym.
“Everyone was on that side of the gym when it happened. That’s where our bleachers are. So all of the kids, we have a 7:45 bell in the morning, they were waiting on that to go to their first period class. So they were all seated in those bleachers, then proceeded to come out of the gym into the hallway,” said Downs.
That’s when teachers had them go into their tornado drill positions. Parents say it’s a relief that no one was hurt.
“She said she was a little scared but she was scared this morning when I dropped her off. We were coming up the alley and the storm hit real bad,” said Dwayne Puckett, picking up his two daughters.
Insurance assessors are at the school seeing how much damage there is and how much repairs may cost.
“I’m very grateful to God for protecting us,” said Downs.
While there may be a lot to clean up, many were happy to simply pick up their kids.
“That’s the only reason nothing more happened I’d say, is because of God,” said Hicks.
It”s too soon to tell how long the gym may be blocked off or if the gym will be closed for the rest of the school year. Sweetwater Junior High School will be closed Thursday. All other schools will be open.