Severe storm creates flurry and confusion on campus

| Senior News Editor

A tree blocks the eastbound lane of Forsyth Boulevard after high winds knocked it over Saturday.

Sirens split through the air on Saturday afternoon, alerting students to a possible incoming tornado. Though the tornado didn’t touch down on campus, the weather took a turn for the unusual.

The tornado alarms went off on campus at around 4:10 p.m., following the warning issued by the national weather service by about 10 minutes. St. Louis’ sirens went off around 10 minutes later. The warning passed at 5:15 p.m.

Even though the sirens went off, Washington University’s emergency messaging systems were not used. The University sent out neither text messages nor e-mails about the tornado warning. They also failed to update the emergency.wustl.edu website.

The University could not be reached for comment.

“That was certainly a severe weather situation that would warrant an e-mail or text message,” said sophomore Zach Gietl, a National Weather Service trained spotter. “Especially because a lot of our students don’t come from the Midwest, [and] they’re not trained with what to do in case a tornado occurs.”

As a trained spotter, Gietl knows what to look for in tornadoes and how to be around them. He also pays close attention to the National Weather Service.

For students on main campus, there was direction about what to do.

“[I was] in the library. They told us to go down to the basement. They knew how to handle it. There was still a bit of confusion in other buildings about what to do,” senior Ryan McLaughlin said.

In the dorms, RAs were the most helpful in informing people to get to the lower levels, students said.

“I was taking a nap, and I heard those sirens, so I was pretty confused. Our RAs were on the floor, so they could tell us what to do,” said Sadie Smeck, a freshman. “It was unusual for me because I had never seen weather that severe, but I didn’t feel that I was unsafe.”

Students were rushed inside and to the bottoms of whatever buildings they were in. People enjoying the ThurtenE Carnival were forced inside.

The tornado did not actually touch down at the University, but by the West County Mall. University City also witnessed hail. The University saw only heavy rain and strong wind.

“There was one moment when we looked outside and you could hardly see past the rain, and then everyone sort of freaked out,” sophomore Bailey Davidson said. “But we also didn’t do anything…I’m not from somewhere where there are tornadoes, so I didn’t think it was a big deal until I talked to people later.”

Though a few trees came down on Forsyth, for the most part there was minimal damage and no injuries.

“The rainbow afterwards was reassurance that everything was OK,” freshman Camille Young said.

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