JACKSON, Tenn. – Nov. 12, 2002 – As the sun came up over the campus Sunday, Nov. 10, a warm breeze blew through the white tarp stretched over the side of Hurt Commons where a wall of glass windows had blown in from the tornado’s high winds. The morning brought a sharp contrast to the darkness and storminess of the night before, and while students slept, resting from the terror of the storm which had occurred only hours before, administrators and staff continued to work, organizing a command center in the Watters commons which had not been damaged as extensively as its sister building and closing off all entrances to the campus except the Walker Road entrance where a security guard was stationed at the Welcome House.
A walk around the campus revealed that the tornado and subsequent storm had left extensive damage to all residence life complexes but minimal damage to the rest of the campus.
The most pressing concerns early Sunday morning were the four power lines which were lying either completely down or at low leaning angles, one of which had fallen on a student’s car. Utility crews arrived on the scene fairly early to begin the process of repairing the lines.
Hundreds of cars in the Watters, Hurt and McAfee parking lots appeared to be damaged, with shattered glass windows and scratches from blowing debris. Glass littered the parking lots, along with torn tree limbs, branches and leaves.
Large trees appeared to have been snapped in half, lying inches away from students’ doors and cars. One hefty oak tree, said to be a hundred years old, laid on its side, completely uprooted as if a giant hand had lifted it out of the ground and dropped it.
Roof damage and damage to water and heat and air units was evident throughout the buildings that had been affected.
As students woke and began to inspect their cars, taping up windows and doing the same for roommates and friends who had been gone for the weekend, a line was organized at the command center to register damage reports and to answer any questions students might have. A phone number was provided to the media for parents to call with questions about their student as crews continued to work to restore power.
By mid-morning, as announcements were made in services of surrounding churches concerning what had happened, volunteers began coming in, offering food, shower facilities, and comforting words to students and staff. Sandwiches were provided for lunch and the American Red Cross and United Way came and served dinner.
Computing services worked through the morning and were eventually successful in bringing up the university’s website by connecting the server to a generator run by natural gas. The University Relations staff quickly began posting information and photos of what was happening along with keeping the media informed who in turn relayed the information to the community.
With another set of storms projected to run a similar course as the system the previous night before, facilities management and administration worked quickly in the warm temperatures and growing wind to cover potential problems and pick up large pieces of debris that might be dangerous in high winds. Union President David S. Dockery toured the campus, checking on students and surveying the damage.
Fraternity row was one of the areas hit hardest. The Sigma Alpha Epsilon house suffered extensive damage when a tree fell onto its deck, and some of the students reported watching their shed blow away right before their eyes. The Kappa Delta house received major structural damage and holes in the roof were glaringly obvious.
The athletics department reported damage in several of the athletic fields including the newly constructed ticket booth which was strewn all over the baseball field. Poles on the softball field had been blown down and there was damage to fences in some areas.
At 5:15 p.m. Sunday evening, power was restored to the campus, with the exception of a couple of buildings with air-conditioning units that had been blown out of place and needed grounding before electricity could be restored. Administration held its breath that the storms coming in would not wipe out electricity once more.
Though tornado warnings were issued between six and seven p.m., and administration and students took the necessary precautions, high winds and rain were the only result of the system which moved through Sunday night. A work day was scheduled for Monday with hopes to make an initial start for clean-up on campus. The day was expected to be a long one.
“I am grateful to a host of people for their efforts,” said Union President David S. Dockery. “However, a few such as David McBride, Brad Sargent, Kimberly Thornbury, Kathy Southall, Bobby Ludwig, Pam Schock, Dan Herr, Carla Sanderson, Gary Carter, Bob Alsobrook, Sara Horn and several others deserves special praise for their diligent attention to the details of the day. Without their efforts above and beyond the call of duty we would not have been able to turn the situation around so quickly.”
Sara B. Horn,