Employees At Southgate Elementary Hunkered Down During Moore Tornado

Friday, March 27th 2015, 6:37 pm
By: News 9

Southgate-Rippetoe Elementary School suffered significant damage in this week's severe storm.

No students or teachers were in class when the tornado swept through Wednesday evening.

But News 9 found that several employees rode out the storm inside the building.

Seven people were inside the school, including the custodians, who routinely clean after hours and a few of their family members who came to warn them about the storms.

3/26/2015 Related Story: Moore Educators Band Together To Help Cleanup At Southgate Elementary

The crew did not have time to get home and instead took cover in the office of the school.

"I think I went into shock to be honest with you," Becky Torres, the school's head custodian said. The clouds were the first thing to give her a sense of Deja vu.

She also rode out a tornado there in May 2003 and felt sure it would happen again when she saw SkyNews9 HD helicopter overhead.

As everyone hunkered down, Torres and her daughter-in-law, Sandy Torres, took one last look out a nearby window.

"When she pulled up the shade, the funnel was coming toward the school and it was scary," said Sandy.

Moments later, Torres, her co-workers, and family heard the storm hit the school.

"I just remember it being really, really loud like boom you know and you could just feel it," Torres said. They held the door shut until everything went quiet.

When they opened the door, she said debris was all around them.

The classrooms were a wreck, windows blown out, and the roof tangled into a pile of tin.

All seven made it out okay, and Friday they were still stunned by how fortunate they were to call themselves survivors.

3/26/2015 Related Story: Gov. Fallin Declares State Of Emergency For 25 OK Counties

"You know we made it, and we are all okay," Torres said. "We are all shook up, but we are OK and we are going to move on."

Clean up and repair efforts to Southgate-Rippetoe Elementary were underway Friday.

In the meantime, students, teachers, and staff will temporarily attend classes at Emmaus Baptist Church.