Section: News

5:30 a.m. tornado warning startles students before midterms

Kenyon students and Gambier residents woke shortly after 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday to an emergency tornado warning alert from the National Weather Service directing them to seek shelter immediately, followed by the sound of Gambier’s tornado siren.

Knox County and several other counties in central Ohio — including Franklin, Fairfield, Licking, Madison, Morgan and Perry — issued tornado warnings as a line of severe thunderstorms caused fallen trees, power outages and property damage across the region. The National Weather Service has confirmed five tornadoes across Ohio as of Wednesday evening, with one of them reaching wind speeds of 65-110 mph. There were no tornadoes in Knox County, although the College did experience heavy thunderstorms, strong winds and hail.

The Office of Campus Safety sent an email to Kenyon community members on Tuesday afternoon warning students about the possibility of severe weather that night and reminding them of safety procedures in the event of an emergency. 

“Severe tornadoes generally do not occur in central Ohio as much as in other parts of the country,” Director of Campus Safety Michael Sweazey wrote in an email to the Collegian. “However, this does not mean that people should not heed weather alerts. There are generally at least a few tornado warnings a year at Kenyon, though some are during the summer.”

Most students took shelter in the designated severe weather locations in their residences, including the basement or first-floor hallways in many residence halls and the bathrooms in the New Apartments (New Apts). Several students had exams scheduled for Wednesday morning, adding another layer of stress. 

“I live in upstate New York, and this was my first tornado warning,” Megan Dellenbaugh ’26 wrote in a message to the Collegian. “I ended up in the downstairs bathroom [of a North Campus Apartment], napping against the door as I waited for the storm to pass. Luckily, I didn’t have a morning class — I feel bad for the people who had 8:40 a.m. [midterm exams] the next day!”

Others stayed in bed or slept through the storm entirely. “I heard the sirens but was half asleep and didn’t really process what was going on for a while,” Derek Dean ’25 wrote in a message to the Collegian. “My roommate woke me up and told me what was happening, but I ended up staying in bed. In hindsight, I probably should’ve sheltered in my New Apt bathroom, but my bed was just too comfortable.”

The tornado warning expired at 6:15 a.m. The storm did not cause significant damage to campus, according to Sweazey, although he warned that strong winds after heavy rain had the potential to cause fallen trees through Wednesday afternoon and evening.

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