'We just held hands’: Students recount moments EF1 tornado tore through Loris H.S. parking lot

Updated: Jan. 14, 2020 at 11:00 AM EST
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LORIS, S.C. (WMBF) – The National Weather Service confirmed an EF1 tornado blew through the Loris High School parking lot on Monday.

NWS officials said that winds were up to 90 mph. They said it developed near the Loris High School football field and tracked near the visitor side bleachers.

Senior Ashton Norman said her chorus teacher looked out the window and saw the tornado.

“My chorus teacher said, ‘Everybody stay calm and seated. Let me just see what I can do and let’s see what’s going on,” Norman said. “There’s a door that leads to the outside with a glass window and she saw the tornado and the teacher next to her said, ‘That’s it, everybody let’s go, we need to run.' So we all ran into the hall and we took cover.”

Norman recalled the scary moments as she and her classmates gathered in the hallway.

“We just held hands and put our hands over our heads. In that moment anything that had ever happened went away. You were just worried about your safety and your friends’ safety," Norman said.

Officials said a mobile trailer was flipped over and the tornado moved across the main parking lot where it tossed several cars and blew out the windows of dozens of others.

Loris Police Chief Gary Buley said that 72 cars were damaged when the tornado hit the parking lot. Buley said that number could go up while the damage assessment continues.

“I walk out and we just look at the parking lot and everyone was kinda speechless," Norman said.

Toni Bell, a junior, was one of the students who had their car smashed by another vehicle.

“I never thought I’d be out here talking to you about another car on top of my car because of a tornado. It’s pretty crazy," Bell said.

Loris Fire Chief Jerry Hardee said no injuries were reported.

Horry County Schools spokesperson Lisa Bourcier said the school did not lose power and staff did not receive any kind of weather alert.

Chief Meteorologist Jamie Arnold explains why there may have been no warning before a tornado hit in Loris.

Bourcier said she spoke to Loris High School principal Richard Crumley, who said no one heard anything indicating a tornado had ripped through the school’s parking lot and damaged several cars.

She said that students go through safety drills throughout the school year, which include tornado drills. She believes if a warning had gone out then everyone would have known what to do.

During the school board meeting on Monday night, board members prayed for those impacted and were thankful that no one was harmed.

Norman said she’s thankful for her teacher who helped get them to safety.

“You can replace vehicles and not lives. I’m glad that we’re safe and thankful my teacher handled the situation as well as she did and I’m thankful for Loris High School," Norman said.

After going past the school, NWS officials said the tornado then made its way across Loris Lions Road. It ripped the metal roof off a large storage barn near the intersection of Highway 9 and S.C. 66. The tornado also crossed over Campbell Drive and dissipated as it entered the woods just north of the cell tower at the end of Campbell Drive, according to the NWS report.

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