A category 3 tornado struck Piedmont’s Swanson center on March 24 causing a catastrophic fire in the building.
“I had really bad burns to my leg and they still hurt. I was walking through and all of a sudden sirens were going off and then a tornado came through and an explosion happened,” said Katelyn Perry, a person injured in the storm.
It all began around 9 AM that morning. The tornado hit without any warning as the clouds began to swirl when it touched down next to the Swanson Center.
Many people were rushing inside to seek shelter. Some were unlucky as they were hit with flying debris and were severely injured.
“What was happening inside the building is the fire department was doing their thing, the source of the fire was in the ductwork because some of the ceiling collapsed,” explained Vice President for safety and building management Fred Bucher.
The Swanson center’s airduct system was damaged during the tornado which led to a fire on top of the building. The fire grew rapidly causing the ceiling to collapse with many people inside. Many victims were badly injured by falling debris and treated by the nurses on scene.
Piedmont’s nursing students arrived on scene and quickly got to work tending to the victims. The EMS for Habersham County was on the scene with Habersham County Fire Department and Demorest Police. The nursing students rushed in and out of the burning Swanson Center working tirelessly to help anyway possible.
“They are all tragic events, and we deal them as we can, but I would probably say this disaster was probably a 6 out of 10,” said Floyd Canup, who works for Demorest Police.
Those on scene have seen worse disasters and wanted to make sure they were there for the people who were in need of help. Emergency services wanted to care for the victims and even arrest someone who was trying to steal personal items from the victims.
“We were not at a total loss, we had people jump on and get things done,” explained Fred Bucher.
Ultimately, Piedmont is incredibly lucky to have incredible nursing students that can help during a situation along with all the first responders. Without them many victims would not have been treated on time at the scene of the fire and the damage outside the Swanson Center caused by a catastrophic tornado.