SHAWNEE, Okla. (KFOR) – Tornadoes ripped across the Sooner State Wednesday night, tearing up multiple areas including Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee. The widespread damage could be seen scattered across town and across campus as the sun rose Thursday morning.
The damage across campus was extensive after what was a very frightening night for students, faculty and residents across Shawnee. Uprooted trees, busted out windows, roofs ripped off buildings and damaged cars were all visible as the sun came up. University crews could be seen Thursday morning picking up some debris and damage as the school looks to start its rebuild.
“I couldn’t believe it was happening,” said Sarah Birkenholz. “It was so surreal.”
Birkenholz is talking about Wednesday night being on campus. She and her friends Jennifer Santos and Cassie Pendergraft are all seniors at the university. Each of them was forced to take shelter at the chapel on campus.
“Within minutes it just hits, the doors fly open and wind like gusting,” Birkenholz said. “All of a sudden our ears are popping; we could hear things falling and shattering and everything.”
The trio’s apartment also caved in and one of them suffered car damage.
“Broken windows, pretty badly scratched, some dents,” Santos said.
A car not far from Santos’s was badly damaged. Debris busted through the windows and was piled around it. The university president Dr. Heath Thomas called it the worst natural disaster to campus in the schools 113-year history. Luckily though, no one was hurt or killed.
“We have no reported injuries and no reported fatalities,” Thomas said. “Where I’m from that’s kind of hallelujah territory.”
Thomas said their safety protocols were all effective and worked well. Now, it’s just time to assess damage and plan for the future.
“We love these students; we love this place, and we look forward to seeing bison hill continue and be strong in the future,” Thomas said.
Thomas said classes are out for the rest of the week. They are still working on a rebuilding plan as of right now. He said they are also reaching out to state and local resources to see what help is available to them, but he said they have had interest in helping from alumni and others. Thomas wasn’t sure when students would be back in the classroom but said final exams will happen in a few weeks.