When Oklahoma City Community College students returned to campus Monday, many of their classes weren't where they expected.
School officials spent last week finding classroom space for all the college's summer courses after a tornado swept through campus, causing heavy damage to several buildings.
The college's summer semester had been scheduled to begin June 3, but officials decided to postpone the first day of classes because of damage from the May 31 tornado. The storm tore the roof off the college's main building, allowing several inches of rain water to collect inside, OCCC spokesman Cordell Jordan said.
Every class that was scheduled to be held in the social sciences wing of the main building had to be moved elsewhere because of damage to that building. Most of the damage is due to flooding, Jordan said. Crews are working to repair the roof and replace ceilings and carpets in the building, he said.
“Fortunately, the water was fairly clean, coming from the monsoon,” he said.
Before classes began, OCCC officials posted notices on the college's website and Facebook page notifying students of the classroom changes. Signs also were placed around campus, and college staff members were at locations around campus helping students find out where their classes were being held, OCCC spokeswoman Deirdre Steiner said.
E.J. Warren, director of electronic student services at the school, was on campus when the tornado struck. The college isn't a designated public shelter, but Warren said residents who live nearby often come to campus when tornadoes are on the way. Before the storm, Warren moved residents into classrooms and other interior rooms and asked them to stay there.
As the storm hit, Warren said she could hear the roof being torn from the building and water cascading in — like “a mini Niagara Falls,” she said. Standing on the first floor of the three-story building after the storm passed through, Warren could look up and see the sky and feel the breeze blowing.
Oklahoma City Community College wasn't the only campus in the metro area to sustain damage during the May 31 tornado. Redlands Community College in El Reno saw heavy roof damage, Redlands President Larry Devane said. Redlands also shifted classes and other campus events away from areas affected by the tornado.
The damage at Redlands is less obvious than the tornado's effects elsewhere, such as at OCCC and Canadian Valley Technology Center's El Reno campus, which saw catastrophic damage from the storm.
Although the damage might not immediately be visible to passers-by, Devane said he expects repairs to be an expensive undertaking.
“It's like cancer,” he said. “What you don't see may be the most expensive damage that you have.”