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Security cameras capture tornado hitting Tippecanoe Co. school

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LAFAYETTE — It’s been a week and a half since a tornado tore through Southwestern Middle School in Tippecanoe County. Now we can see inside the school as the storm rolled through, thanks to security cameras in the building.

The video brings Principal Karen Smith some peace because she can see if school would have been in session, the students would have been in safe locations.

“That’s the best peaceful feeling that I got that day,” said Principal Smith. “They would have been all in a safe location.”

The students are now hitting the books at a Lafayette church and Wea Ridge. They’re being welcomed with open arms.

“Literally the Wea Ridge students lined the hallways, kind of like you might see on a sports field for starting lineups,” said Superintendent Scott Hanback. “As the Southwestern students came down the hallway, they were high-fiving students and hugging students.”

Classroom supplies were destroyed, but a lot have been replenished by the community. The generosity is saving teachers like Kelly Peckinpaugh.

“It brings emotion to me. I see just regular novels. All of my novels got taken out. No books came to my classroom. So seeing books and having kids be able to pull a book off my shelf makes me super happy,” said Peckinpaugh. “I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t say there have been ups and downs to this process, but honestly, seeing the kids has really eased our emotions and taken us back to why we’re here and what we’re doing.”

The gymnasium is a total loss, but crews were able to salvage the Wildcat logo from center court. It’s being dried and preserved.

Constructions crews are securing the school building, boarding windows and patching what they can. Once finished, architects and engineers can decipher the exact damage. The school is not expected to reopen during this school year.