The campus of Jacksonville State University, which is also known as JSU, sustained damage from a severe tornado that touched down on March 19, 2018. In the aftermath of the twister, campus officials were still surveying the aftermath and degree of wreckage, but it was clear that multiple buildings, including the Coliseum, had sustained damage.
The Dollar General and part of the “Reserve” (an apartment building near campus) were damaged, according to photos posted on social media. The university provided some information on the evening of March 19, writing, “There is damage to campus. Trees and power lines are down. Avoid traveling at or near campus. If you need UPD, call 256-689-2018.”
The university added, “If you are a student in need of assistance please go to the University Police Department in Salls Hall or call 256-782-5050 or 911.” It was not yet clear whether there were any injuries.
The Marching Southerners wrote on Twitter, “Our music building roof took some damage and is taking on water. Most students are away for Spring Break. Most of the students I’ve contacted are safe with some reporting damage to their apartments. -Jesse, Band GA.” The university also retweeted this photo:
Around 11 p.m., the university tweeted, “Dear JSU family and friends: Our campus and our community were hit this evening by severe storms. It has only just become safe for university police to come out of shelter and they are out assessing the damage and going dorm to dorm checking on residents.”
John Stempin, an NPR reporter, wrote on Twitter, “Widespread tornado damage reported in Jacksonville, AL including the state university campus. Residents advised not to venture out due to a large numbrer of downed powerlines. Unconfirmed reports of victims trapped in rubble. #nprnewscast.”
A photo of the twister by Facebook user Blake Matson was widely shared:
Greg Seitz, the athletic director of JSU, confirmed that the JSU Coliseum was damaged, but he said it was not destroyed, writing, “Thanks for all the calls, texts and emails and we do have extensive damage in Jacksonville. I can confirm we have major roof damage at Pete Mathews Coliseum, but The Pete is not completely destroyed. We have staff on site and will update as soon as possible.”
The Dollar General store in Jacksonville sustained significant damage.
Here’s another view of the Dollar General:
Seitz also wrote, “We are still surveying all of the damage to campus and can confirm major roof damage to Logan Hall and Patterson Hall. Numerous trees and power lines are down. I’m very thankful JSU is on spring break this week and most students are out of town.” Students who were there during the storm but made it through OK were breathing a sigh of relief.
Earlier in the evening, JSU urgently tweeted, “Tornado down near JSU. Please get to your safe spaces if you’re in the Jacksonville, AL area.” The National Weather Service’s Birmingham office confirmed the frightening news, writing, “CONFIRMED DAMAGING AND POSSIBLY LARGE TORNADO NEAR JACKSONVILLE/CALHOUN COUNTY MOVING EAST INTO NORTHERN CLEBURNE COUNTY. TORNADO WARNING IN EFFECT! TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY AND SHELTER NOW!! #alwx”
The campus was not the only area that sustained damage. A local church was severely damaged, although the parishioners were OK, authorities said.
By one report, the church was split in half by the tornado.
People offered shelter:
The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department reported that trees and power lines were down, roads were closed, and schools would be closed on March 20, 2018.