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In Alabama, frightened students huddle as tornado approaches

By Moni Basu, CNN
updated 5:01 PM EST, Fri March 2, 2012
Buckhorn High School in Huntsville, Alabama, sustained damage from a tornado on Friday.
Buckhorn High School in Huntsville, Alabama, sustained damage from a tornado on Friday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Blair Scott sent a text warning to his daughter at Buckhorn High School
  • One of two apparent tornadoes was heading straight toward her
  • The students huddled in a dark, damp hallway
  • Everyone was terrified, said Scott's daughter Rose

(CNN) -- Shortly after 10 a.m. Blair Scott sent a text to his daughter Rose, a junior at Buckhorn High School in northeast Huntsville. He could feel the lump in his throat as he warned her: You have three minutes to get to a safe place.

The twister was hurtling straight toward her.

It was one of two apparent tornadoes that ripped through the area Friday.

Scott jumped in his car and furiously drove the three miles from his home to the school. The speedometer said 80. In his read view mirror, he could see four police cars. But they weren't chasing him. They were also charging towards to the school and the sitting targets within.

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Scott arrived to a surreal scene wrought by the fury of the storm.

His heart skipped a few beats. He was one of thousands of Americans unnerved Friday by a swath of severe weather that extended from Alabama to Indiana.

Inside the school, it was hot, damp and dark -- the power was out. The staff had gone into storm mode at about 8:45 in the morning, huddling the students in the safest place of all, the hallway, Scott said.

Rose was huddled with her classmates. She could feel her frightened friend's clawing into her arm. Everyone knew the tornado coming their way, like a killer approaching a helpless victim. Everyone was terrified.

Rose was 20 feet away from the door and could feel the wind forcing its way underneath. It was so strong that even through the cracks, it made her hair fly.

"We didn't know if it was going to bust open at any minute," she said.

Signs outside were blowing; trees bending.

Suddenly, it became sunny. The wind went one way one minute and another, the next. Then, it began raining. Hard.

The pressure changed and got so bad it made Rose's ears hurt. She got low to the floor.

A large trash bin flew through the air. Where once there had been tall oaks, there was nothing. They were horizontal with the earth and Rose could see the house that used to be hidden by vegetation across the street.

When it was over, teachers screamed as they saw their wrecked cars, the building's windows shattered and part of the roof in the parking lot.

Similar storms ripped through the Huntsville area about a year ago. Students, teachers and parents all had their memories. Rose had even chased tornadoes with her dad -- both father and daughter are fascinated with science and meteorology.

But she had never lived through a tornado before. Now she knew what it felt like.

"It was a whole different experience," she said. "I couldn't even text. My hands were shaking so bad."

Many of the students were trying to call their moms and dads but cell phone service was sketchy.

She was relieved to see her father when he arrived at the school.

Scott said his daughter's friends pleaded with him. "Please, Mr. Scott," they said. "Take us home."

But he couldn't. School policy forbade it so that all the students could be accounted for.

"It was heartbreaking," he said. "It was horrible in there. They were so scared and apprehensive."

Scott felt incredibly lucky that everyone he loved was alright. He took his daughter home and passed the rest of the day under a tornado watch.

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