Most kids think tornadoes are a never-ending cloud that can suck you up into an empty void with unbearable sights. Unfortunately, these thoughts were challenged and our worst fears came true on September 1, 2021.
It was the first day of school after 18 months of pandemic isolation, when just a few hours after the final bell rang, a tornado touched ground in Upper Dublin Township. Within a few hours, lives were upended and devastating damage was apparent. The high school grounds looked like a war zone with fences, poles, and trees scattered about. Fort Washington Elementary school and the township building were also destroyed. Houses were damaged with shingles missing in some, and entire roofs ripped off others. Trees were everywhere, windshields were smashed, and outdoor furniture was destroyed. Treelines looked like a box of matchsticks.
According to the Courier-Times, the tornado hit within three minutes of receiving alerts. Multiple roads were closed leaving residents no options for transportation except for walking or biking. A two-minute car ride turned into 45 minutes of dodging debris. The tornado was classified as an F2 tornado with wind speeds of 111 - 165 mph. F0 and F1 are the weakest, having wind speeds from 65 to 110 miles per hour and F4 and F5 are the strongest with wind speeds of 166 to 200+ miles per hour. Montgomery County had experienced 4 tornadoes within 30 minutes, all with wind speeds at about 130 miles per hour.
Through this chaos, Upper Dublin residents have come together to help support families who were displaced or need help financially. As in most disasters, there are opportunities for businesses. Landscapers and construction companies were inundated with the business within a few hours after the storm. Cleanup would take a lot longer than expected. Furthermore, in the midst of ruin and destruction, people have remained positive in their efforts to return to normalcy. The school district was understanding of students’ challenges and many wanted to help as much as possible. High school teacher Barbara Mass and others came together to help with clean-up efforts and emotional and physical support.
Due to the storm damage, Upper Dublin High School and Fort Washington Elementary students had a two-week delay to the start of the school year. Sports fields and outdoor resources were severely damaged and needed work before students could return safely. Sporting events had to take place at fields and courts outside of high school grounds, and in some cases, in other school districts. High school students were able to return to their school after two weeks, with the help from the federal government and the perseverance of the School Superintendent, Dr. Yanni. Unfortunately, Fort Washington Elementary school was severely damaged, forcing their students to attend other schools in the district.
Since the tornado, residents have spent an enormous amount of time and energy cleaning up their properties. Cutting trees, picking up branches and broken furniture, and mending broken fences have become the focus of our community. Although the landscape has changed significantly, students are back in school with the same Upper Dublin Strong Spirit that defined them before the storm. Overcoming this obstacle led residents of Upper Dublin to realize how supporting and considerate the community can be.