‘It’s catastrophic’: EF-2 tornado hits high school as strong winds, heavy rain rip through Carolinas

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Powerful storms ripped through the Charlotte region and beyond Saturday night, bringing strong winds and rain and leaving thousands without power.

Officials said several fallen trees were reported across the region, as well.

No injuries were reported in the Charlotte area from Saturday’s storms.

In Kershaw County, South Carolina, the National Weather Service confirmed a tornado hit North Central High School. Crews on the scene reported it was an EF-2 tornado with 130 mph wind speeds.

The Sheriff's Office posted pictures of the damage showing school buses smashed into each other and parts of the roof and building ripped away.

“We always try to see the silver lining, and in my opinion, the silver lining here is that it happened on a Saturday night,” graduate and former administrator Charles King said. “No one was here, so there were no injuries and no one lost their life, so buildings can be replaced, facilities can be rebuilt.”

School officials have said they are working with state and local leaders to assess the damage, but deputies said the school could be closed for a while.

The tornado damaged just about every building on North Central's campus and officials told WSOC-TV's DaShawn Brown that out of a fleet of nearly 30 buses, only three can be salvaged.

The school’s football stadium also took a hit, leaving the bleachers collapsed and metal lights bent in half.

“I’m devastated because we’ve got a lot of children and family and stuff," parent Carolyn Lewis said. “They go to school here. It’s sad, it really is.”

District leaders said more than 500 students attend the school. Officials are working on a plan to figure out where the students will finish out the school year, and possibly the following year.

“Number one, it’s catastrophic, there’s no doubt,” King said. “Some of the structures and buildings aren’t salvageable. They will have to be rebuilt. I feel for the students involved because it will probably be a couple of years before they’ll be able to set foot back on this campus.”

Officials told WSOC-TV′s Gina Esposito students will report Wednesday to an empty vocational school about 20 miles from the damaged high school.

School district officials are still working to find a solution for the buses that were damaged or destroyed, but officials said their counterparts in other counties have reached out to see how they can help.

Duke Energy employees worked for hours to restore power to residents across the Charlotte area. Duke reported more than 70,000 power outages across the Carolinas after Saturday night’s storms.

Officials with the Red Cross said they are helping two families, a family of four in Hickory and a family of five in Rockwell, after trees fell on their homes.

“(I) looked outside, saw a lot of rain, sat back down. A couple (of) minutes later, (I heard) a gigantic crash,” homeowner Daniel Flattery said. “You felt the counters jump. Everything hit all at one time.”

The same line of storms tore through other parts of the southeast Saturday. Among the hardest-hit areas was Louisiana, where police said three people died.

Officials said a couple died after their trailer was demolished by the storm and a man in his 70s was lying in bed when a tree fell on top of him.

Authorities believe at least nine people have been killed throughout these storms in several states.

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