A tiny but powerful microburst smashed through a school gymnasium in Clinton, N.C., on Monday, terrifying a fifth-grade class and injuring three children in an incident caught on video.
Security footage released by the school shows the moment when the storm tore into the Union Intermediate Elementary School gymnasium, where 21 students and a teacher were holding gym class.
The students were stretching on the floor near the gymnasium stage just before the storm hit. The video does not include sound, but the students appeared to notice the danger moments before it arrived. They can be seen jumping up and scrambling to get away from the stage just as the red curtain covering it starts billowing inward.
The stage curtain flies straight up, the stage is lit by daylight and basketballs and debris start flying inward as the storm rips into the roof. The wall behind the stage collapses inward in a rush of dust and wind.
The wind howls through the gymnasium for a brief period of time, whipping up the curtains covering the windows. It appears to subside in less than a minute.
“The students were doing their gym activities and all of a sudden it’s just debris starts flowing in and you see the sky,” Wendy Cabral, a spokesperson for Sampson County Schools, told ABC 11.
Cabral confirmed that the storm tore the roof off the stage.
Principal Dondi Hobbs said the stage curtain likely protected the children from much of the flying debris.
“I am appreciative of God’s blessings,” Hobbs told ABC 11. “He takes care of us and directs us all the time.”
The National Weather Service has confirmed that a microburst hit the area on Monday. The tiny storm had wind speeds of up to 137 kilometres per hour — the equivalent of a Category 1 hurricane.
The injured children were treated in hospital and later released, ABC 11 reports.