There were approximately 70 victims, with 10 deceased and 15 people in critical condition.
“We were not at a total loss. We had some people that jumped on and got things done,” says Vice President for safety and building management Fred Bucher.
It all started at approximately 9:00 AM on March 24, a category three tornado hit the Swanson center at Piedmont College.
“We were walking around the campus enjoying the day when it got quiet, and the trees began falling,” says Casey Ellis, a person injured in the storm.
The tornado that hit Swanson came without any warning. The clouds began to swirl when it touched down right next to the building. Many people ran to seek shelter but were unable to.
“Because the Swanson performing arts center sits on a hill, it was badly damaged,” explained Fred Bucher.
The Swanson center’s air conditioning units were toppled over and shorted out. This created a fire on top of the building due to the air ducts. Many of the casualties that were seen were caused by the collapse of the roof and the debris.
When arriving on the scene, the City of Demorest Police and Fire departments, Habersham Search, Rescue and Habersham County MedicalCenter and EMS were all there helping the injured. The nursing majors at Piedmont College were also hard at work trying to save everyone they could.
“We are being able to triage everyone and make sure everyone’s going to get out safely,” says senior nursing major Kaylee White, who was on the scene.
Piedmont is fortunate to be able to have fantastic nursing students on campus to help in such a tragedy. They worked along with many experts to find and treat everyone. They placed three large tarps in the quad of Swanson. The colors were red, yellow and green. Each tarp represented how the patient needed to be treated and what condition they were in.
Thanks to the help of the nursing students at Piedmont and the experts that arrived quickly on the scene, the casualties were able to be kept at a minimum and many lives were saved.