For Eric Melcher, it was a normal day until a violent tornado ripped through the Ramer Administration Building, one of two buildings on the campus that experienced a direct hit.
Melcher tells News 2 that up until the tornado hit, they weren’t expecting anything to happen.
“Oh, it’s another tornado warning? We were joking around up until the last minute when it went over our heads,” said Melcher.
Every building on Vol State’s campus had damage, and hundreds of students and faculty were there that day, but none were severely injured or killed. Melcher recalls one woman barely making it inside just before the tornado hit.
“We were here, just down the hallway, in the hallway of the Ramer. And the only thing that was standing in between us and that tornado were these doors. These fire doors saved our lives,” explained Melcher, “And they were closed at the time. And I remember a woman came in; she came running in at the last minute, she says it’s in the parking lot. And she was the last one in, and we closed the door.”
Melcher and other students and staff took shelter in the hallway.
“And then we all kind of, we hunker down in this hallway. And, you know, [I] put my briefcase over my head. And we knew it came through because first we just heard a loud roar. And then all the ceiling tiles, the ceiling tiles popped up with the air pressure change.”
Vol State is an excellent example of how severe weather preparation can save lives. Every semester the school conducts a tornado drill, and those drills are what saved staff and students that day. Everyone on campus took shelter.
Fifteen years later, Vol State is still committed to severe weather preparedness.
Speakers that sound when there’s a tornado warning are installed across the campus, and automatic alerts from the National Weather Service goes straight to the Vol State text messaging system to keep students and faculty aware of current weather conditions.
One thing that does remain a mystery, even fifteen years later, is what happened to the heavy information desk in the Ramer Building’s lobby. It was never found.