Fifty-one students were treated for injuries and nine were kept overnight in a local hospital after a tornado wreaked havoc on the campus of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee on February 5.
All students were accounted for and, while some of the injuries were serious, none were life threatening, Union President David S. Dockery said in a news conference early the next morning.
The men's and women's residential complexes were almost completely destroyed, and the roof was torn off a main academic building, Dockery said. He recalled a 2002 tornado that struck the campus, causing $2.6 million in damage, and said this one was "fifteen times worse than that."
Twelve students were trapped in residence halls by storm damage, but the vast majority of the estimated one thousand students on campus followed the university's emergency plan and escaped serious injury.
"It's a miracle of the Lord more people weren't injured," Union journalism professor Michael Chute told Baptist Press. "The damage to the residence halls looks as bad as the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City when it was bombed. Walls were just ripped off."
As many as 3,300 students had been on campus earlier in the day before classes dismissed, Chute said. The tornado struck about 7 p.m.
Faculty and staff met students at a shopping center across from the campus to register them as safe and match them with volunteers in the community who were willing to take them in, Chute said. Local churches mobilized buses to take students to host homes.
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor for Baptist Press.