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High winds rip roofs off parts of two area schools

‘Debris was everywhere’

Heavy winds overnight caused significant damage at Blair Oaks High School gymnasium. A portion of the roof was blown off and heavy rains flooded the building, damaging ceiling tiles, computers, the gym's hardwood floor, etc. A crew from Servepro was on the scene drying the gym floor and vacuuming whatever water they could locate. The goal is to remove water as quickly as possible to avoid mold and mildew.

Heavy winds overnight caused significant damage at Blair Oaks High School gymnasium. A portion of the roof was blown off and heavy rains flooded the building, damaging ceiling tiles, computers, the gym's hardwood floor, etc. A crew from Servepro was on the scene drying the gym floor and vacuuming whatever water they could locate. The goal is to remove water as quickly as possible to avoid mold and mildew. Photograph courtesy of Jim Jones, superintendent at Blair Oaks Schools

Straight line-winds whipping through Wardsville on Monday night ripped two-thirds of the roof off the Blair Oak High School gymnasium, soaking the wooden floor and causing an estimated $400,000 in damages.

Prairie Home R-5 School also suffered significant damage in the same storm.

photo

Caleb Bischoff rolls a wrestling mat back into the school cafeteria after it was unrolled on the parking lot to dry out. Bischoff and other football players were at camp Tuesday morning when they were called up to help pull items out of the gym, weightroom, coaches' offices and locker rooms after the building flooded in the heavy rain overnight. The high winds early Tuesday morning blew off a portion of the Blair Oaks gymnasium roof allowing water to pour in and filter down through the walls and ceilings. Items were brought out into the sun to dry and returned to the cafeteria until the rooms in the lower floors are ready to be used again.

In Blair Oaks, the winds peeled away gutters along the northwestern corner of the building, lifting the rubberized topmost layer and sending layers of insulation sailing thorough the breeze. By Tuesday morning when staff came to work, the parking lot located south of the building was covered with debris and a large tree was festooned with squares of the insulation.

About two-thirds of the roof’s rubberized surface was exposed and about half of the insulation was blow away by the winds, which reportedly reached speeds of 70 miles per hour or higher.

Kellen Gale, a 17-year-old senior who is working for the district this summer, came to work ready to mow grass, but quickly found himself picking up debris with the rest of the crew.

“Debris was everywhere, and the roof was hanging off,” Gale said. “We gathered it up and shoveled it into a truck.”

Without the roof to protect the building, rain flowed freely into the structure.

On Tuesday morning, school district maintenance crew members and ServePro staff worked to vacuum up pools of water that stood on the gymnasium floor and flowed into the building’s lower level. The space is used not only for locker rooms, but also to house coaches’ offices and store sporting equipment.

Using vacuums, floor scrubbers and fans, the workers set about removing water from the building. Water also flowed into the school’s brand new wrestling and weight facility, but Superintendent Jim Jones said that structure won’t be harmed by the excess water.

Contemplating the still-wet gymnasium floor, Jones looked displeased, but resigned.

“It was standing an inch to half-an-inch in places,” Jones said.

Most of the walls are concrete block, he noted, but some drop ceilings and drywall sections will have to be replaced.

Jones estimated it will take about two weeks to fully remove moisture that had seeped under the wood flooring. By early afternoon Tuesday, workers were dragging outdoors some of the sporting equipment to dry and move other sets to the weight facility.

Randy Prenger, director of maintenance, was one of the first to enter the gym. After noticing that the scoreboard was likely shorted out, he went to turn on at least one light to see more of the damage. There, he noticed that the building’s electrical panel was full of water.

Despite the losses, Prenger, Jones and Principal Gary Verslues did not seem upset.

“It’s hard to get too worked up, after what happened in Joplin,” Verslues said. “Nobody was hurt. All of it can be fixed.”

The district is insured for property damage by Gallagher Bassett Services Inc.

“It’s not exactly what we hoped for, a month or so before school starts,” Jones added.

But he said it’s unlikely the damage will displace any of the summer sports camps or cause school to be delayed. It is likely that the building will be closed for a minimum of three weeks, he added.

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In Prairie Home, an existing situation was made much worse when Monday’s storm blew through.

Three weeks ago, another major storm ripped off the roof of the district’s elementary school. In that storm, a smaller section of roof — about 40 to 60 feet in length — remained over the school’s stage.

On Monday evening, the edge of the exposed stage roof was lifted by high winds and dragged across the gymnasium roof, leaving holes as it passed. It landed on top of the choir roof where it ripped loose a power line and damaged the building’s bricks.

“It’s a terrible mess again,” Superintendent Steve Barnes said.

Along with the high winds came heavy rains that soaked the school’s stage curtains and left pools of water on the gymnasium’s floor.

“The gym floor is warping,” Barnes lamented. “And we just had it refinished last year.”

After the storm three weeks ago, Barnes said the district was pushing to make the repairs in time for the start of school in August. Now, he said it won’t be possible.

“I just called about getting some mobile classrooms,” he reported.

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