Surveillance video shows tornado tearing through Courtney Elementary School campus

YADKIN COUNTY, N.C. -- Surveillance video from Courtney Elementary School in Yadkin County shows the moments where an EF2 tornado came ripping through the campus shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Editor's note: Scroll to the bottom of this story to see raw surveillance video from four different cameras around the school. 

“It just didn’t even feel real,” said Jack Ploof, a Courtney Elementary fifth-grader.

Ploof was one of about 25 students and teachers who were inside the school as the tornado passed through, according to Courtney Elementary School Principal Jed Cockrell.

“You could really hear it, really loud,” Ploof said.

When alerts started going off on their phones, and teachers heard the weather radio warnings, they gathered the students into a classroom and had them get under the desks.

“We were just trying to take care of the little ones that were with us,” Courtney Elementary fifth-grade teacher Karen Joyner said.

The surveillance video shows the winds pick up, then what appears to be the bottom of the tornado traveling across the campus, carrying debris with it.

“Yeah, you could almost feel it . . . my ears popped and you could tell something was wrong,” Ploof said.

The National Weather Service later confirmed the EF2 had crossed into Yadkin County from Davie County, with wind speeds estimated around 125 mph when it touched down, leaving a path of destruction for about four miles and 225 yards in width.

“It was the freight train sound, with the really loud winds,” Joyner said.

From start to finish, the video is evidence that the worst of the damage took place in less than a minute.

“It was very -- it came to reality,” Joyner said, of when the students and teachers went outside to see the impact of the tornado. “That was when reality struck at how bad it had been.”

“Just crazy seeing all the, the whole gym gone, and some damage, a little bit of damage inside the school,” Ploof recalled. “It was, it was just crazy.”

On Tuesday, students and teachers returned to school for the first time since the tornado, with a one-hour delay.

“I’m happy we’re back,” Ploof said. “At least it can start to be normal.”

Cockrell says they’re working with their insurance company to asses and repair the damage.

“We just feel very grateful and very thankful,” Joyner said. “We’re blessed.”

Raw surveillance videos