An EF1 tornado with 90 mph winds touched down at Loris High School between 12:47 and 1:50 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 13. The security camera footage retained by the Horry County District Security shows the tornado came from the football field traveling through the tennis courts to the student parking lot.
A twister that lasted less than 20 seconds in the student parking lot and traveling to the teacher and visitor parking area damaged a total of 75 vehicles per Loris police officer Keith Massey. He said, “The EF-1 tornado was responsible for the damage at the high school and also impacted a billboard and traffic signals at Highway 66 and Highway 9 Business east of the school.” He stated another business building further east received damage as well.
Some students leave school at 1 p.m. Teachers, staff and parents were grateful for the timing of the tornado keeping the students who leave early safe. There was no warning of a possible tornado and as quickly as it appeared and disappeared there was no time to provide a warning throughout the high school.
By 1:00 p.m. the school was on lockdown in the classrooms. Noah Vescovi said, “We were in the chorus room and we heard the winds and crashing.” Vescovi continued saying, “Mr. Whiz shouted for the students to get in the tornado drill position in the hallway.” He stated the band director, Stephen Whisnant (Mr. Whiz) looked out the window and saw the tornado heading toward the school from the football field and shouted out a warning to the classes on the music hallway. Alex Norman, a senior, said, “We kept telling the teacher we heard winds and when we went into the hallway Mr. Whiz was hollering for us all to get in the hallway in position.”
Mayor Todd Harrelson said, “I’m glad no one was hurt. I thank God it was not worse than it is.” This was the response of most of the first responders and staff as the damage was being assessed. Jan Vescovi, a teacher and city council member, said, “It was a scary experience; the winds picked up and I heard a sound like a whistle.” She asked two of her colleagues if they heard it and told them that is sounded like a tornado. She said, “The winds were bad for approximately two minutes then there was complete calm.” She stated by the time they realized what happened the tornado had passed. “I am so thankful that no students or staff were injured.” If the twister occurred 15 minutes later students would have been in the parking lot;” said Vescovi, “God is good and protected us all.”
Tow trucks were busy removing vehicles from on top of one another and those moved from their original parking space slamming into other parked cars; it was nearly midnight when the last vehicle was removed from the property.
Insurance companies and parents will be busy attempting to assess the damage to the vehicles. It is considered as an “act of God”, a term the policy defines instances causing an accident or damage beyond what man can create. This applies to an instance in which a person did not cause the damage the vehicle suffers. Not all types of car insurance covers this.
As said repeatedly God was protecting the students and staff at the school with the timing, the direction and the duration of the tornado.