Students help clean up at storm-damaged Oak Ridge school

Thursday, March 1, 2012
Oak Ridge High School student Kelly Hahs rolls a magnetic strip along the driveway of her grandparents home to gather loose nails Wednesday after an early morning storm tore through Oak Ridge. (Laura Simon)

They had Wednesday off, but they didn't sleep in or sit around playing video games. Many students from Oak Ridge High School instead pulled on their boots or an old pair of tennis shoes, grabbed a jacket and headed out the door to help clean up debris from the yards of family, neighbors or the school grounds after an early Wednesday morning storm caused widespread damage.

Ninth-grader Kelly Hahs and several friends went to her grandparents house on Route B west of Oak Ridge, where they helped friends and family gather large, crumpled metal sheets, shards of wood and broken poles from the yard and surrounding fields after the storm's winds ripped apart a shed and barn.

Hahs said she was glad to be out of school for the day but was disappointed she wouldn't be able to attend district basketball championship playoffs that were to be held that night in the high school gym. She also said she wished school was out for a reason other than the storm. The school canceled classes after wind caused two large air-conditioning units to roll across the roof of the high school gym and punctured holes in the roof. The damaged units lay in the grass near the gym Wednesday morning. Her softball practice was also canceled because of damage to ball fields at the school.

Other students from the high school, middle school and elementary school, parents and school staff were out on the school grounds by 8:30 a.m. Wednesday and cleaned debris from the baseball, softball and T-ball fields. Wind tore off the roof and severely damaged the concession stand and sports equipment storage room. Fences and bleachers were also damaged.

"It's really destroyed," said Serenity Ponder, a kindergarten student, as she lifted a large board from a pile of wreckage that was once the concession stand roof.

Larry Hahs secures tin roofing to a trailer to hall in for scrap Wednesday. (Laura Simon)

School officials said they thought students may return to classes today and could likely use all areas of the school buildings.

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