VARDAMAN • The campus of Vardaman school was left in tatters after a storm rolled through the area early Wednesday morning, including extensive damage to multiple buildings. 

'It could've been so much worse': Damage to Vardaman campus less serious than originally feared

Shortly before 1 a.m., a severe thunderstorm passed through town, causing significant damage to the school. Damage included downed trees throughout the campus. The awning that covers the sidewalks at the elementary school has collapsed almost entirely, and the glass in the windows and doors of multiple school buses was broken. Much of the tech building’s east wall had also collapsed.

“We are still assessing everything; of course, it’s still preliminary,” said Calhoun County School District Superintendent Lisa Langford as she surveyed the damage, Wednesday morning. “We do know that there is some extensive damage to what we call our tech building. We do know that there is some damage to the main high school building on the north end, and there’s definitely something going on in the elementary school because there’s water. I haven’t personally viewed that yet.”

The superintendent said students would continue the school week virtually through Friday, at least, and likely into next week as well.

“Coming over, I was unsure what I was going to face, but there is no way that they are going back this week,” she said.

Calhoun County Emergency Management Director Randy Skinner echoed the sentiment, though he said that the school administration would be the ones who would have to determine how best to move forward with educating the area's students. He said he's not optimistic about students' return to the classroom in the immediate future.

“My own personal opinion, from a structural standpoint, I don’t foresee it right now,” he said. “But like I say, there’s experts they’ll bring in for that.”

Langford said engineers have been brought in to evaluate the damage to the school buildings and provide a recommended path forward.

The school campus wasn't the only area in Vardaman to be hit hard by the storm. According to Skinner, the storm caused severe flooding in Bruce, Calhoun City, Derma and Big Creek. 

"We’ve had several motor vehicle accidents, stranded motorists due to the water. They’ve had to evacuate vehicles and leave them stranded because of flooding,” he said. “We’ve had to rescue multiple elderly people from their homes with boats because the water rose too quick.”

Skinner said officials are still assessing the extent of the damage. 

“The surrounding areas, we haven’t had a chance to actually get out and assess that yet due to some other issues we’ve had this morning, as far as rescues and other things that we had to do here,” he said Wednesday morning.

Skinner said reports of damage have been coming in from all over the county.

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