JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Neighbors in East Arlington are cleaning up after an EF-2 tornado tore through the area just before rush hour Thursday.
"You could feel the earth moving," said Rod Jackson. "That was the wildest weather I've ever seen and I drove right through the middle of it. I got off the road at one point and thought I don't really want to drive through the most intense part of this."
That’s when the Grace Lutheran School Principal got a disturbing call. A parent had just seen the tornado heading straight toward the school.
"Thankfully my staff got the kids that we had left into the Family Life Center. They got them in the center of the gym and actually just put some mats over their heads just to be on the safe side."
Nearly a dozen students and teachers took cover in the gym. They could see debris swirling through the windows, and hear winds howling overhead.
"There's a protocol that they follow and typically this would be the building to go to. It was built to withstand a lot of damage."
Thankfully it did and moments later, they were given the all-clear, but outside damage can be found all around the property. Limbs litter the parking lot including the top of one tree that snapped during the storm, and part of the metal overhang tore apart.
They are signs that the storm could have been much worse, if teachers and parents hadn’t taken quick action.
"Damage to buildings can be repaired but we want our people and especially our children to be safe."