Campus Tornado Damage - 11/9/02

Storm shatters dorm windows at Union

By KELLI L. ROSS
kross@jacksonsun.com
Nov 11 2002

In a matter of minutes, trees were uprooted, power lines fell, glass broke and shingles were hurled across Union University's campus.

CARA EASTWOOD/The Jackson Sun - Larry Ross, right, Assistant Dean of Students at Union University, communicates with other administrators as warning sirens wail in the commons area of Watters Resident Complex on Sunday night.
CARA EASTWOOD/The Jackson Sun - Larry Ross, right, Assistant Dean of Students at Union University, communicates with other administrators as warning sirens wail in the commons area of Watters Resident Complex on Sunday night.

The storm that ripped through North Jackson early Sunday morning left several Union students without homes and caused structural damage to several buildings, but no one was hurt and all students were accounted for Sunday.

"I can't believe all the folks at Union are OK. There was a Union student over here and they said we had a lot of people praying last night - someone was watching over them," said Heather Pattyson, general manager of T.J. Mulligans, which is located across the street from Union.

Approximately 600 to 700 students were on campus when the storm hit, while 1,100 were off campus, said Sara Horn, Union spokeswoman.

"We were in there," said Nathan Robertson, 20, of Buffalo, N.Y., pointing to the men's residence commons building. "The building shook and things started falling from the ceiling, so we jumped under the ping pong table. It was awful."

Sunday evening less than 500 students remained on campus - many went home or off campus, and the university made arrangements for 45 to stay in a local hotel. For those staying on campus, the Jackson chapter of the American Red Cross and West Jackson Baptist Church provided an evening meal and drinks.

As of Sunday evening, no dollar estimates had been released relating to damages. Insurance adjusters will visit the campus today and Tuesday, Horn said.

Union officials have evacuated Blythe, one of the buildings located in the women's housing complex, due to structural damage. The women's complex consists of eight dorm room buildings and one commons building, which sustained major window damage.

"We just got back from Starbucks, and I started to do the dishes and we heard the alarm, so I grabbed my jacket and we went downstairs," said Emily Jonas, 21, a junior English major.

Students living in upstairs dorm rooms are urged to go to a downstairs room during storms.

"The walls started shaking, and we all crammed in and had pillows over our heads. I got really scared, and my heart was beating really fast. I didn't know the girl sitting by me well but I grabbed her leg, and we started to pray."

Jonas and seven others were in the dorm room bathroom. Later, Jonas found her room in the same condition it was before the storm, but "my roommate's looked like a train wreck, there was glass all over the room," she said.

Jonas lived in Blythe and was headed home to Murray, Ky., Sunday afternoon.

The campus lost power around midnight Saturday, and it was restored at 5:15 Sunday evening. Building damage was visible on the Greek organization houses, all three residence complexes and Hammons Hall, which houses LifeWay.

Horn estimates that 500 cars in the university's parking lots have been damaged, some totaled by fallen trees and power lines.

"It was amazing, and when I saw my car windows I started crying," said Katie Grashot, 19, of Millington, a sophomore political science major.

Grashot spent early Sunday morning in a bathroom with 10 other girls. But she's not leaving campus.

"I'm staying in my room, I'm going to be brave," she said.

- Kelli L. Ross, (731) 425-9644

What to know

Union has canceled all classes today. LifeWay is closed today. The only entrance is located at Walker Road and the campus is not open to visitors wanting to view the damage. Faculty and staff will have a work day starting at 9 a.m.; members of the Tennessee Baptist Relief Group will help with the clean-up. Those wanting to help can donate leather gloves, brooms, portable vacuums, buckets and other household items that can be used to clean the campus.

For more information, call 661-5215 or visit www.uu.edu.