Strong wind gusts caused nearly $20,000 worth of damage to the athletic field bleachers at Chaparral High School late Monday afternoon.
The wing gusts lifted the visitor stands off the ground and twisted the metal structure beyond repair, a Gadsden ISD official said.
No student athletes were practicing at the time because the field had been cleared as a result of lightning in the area. A trainer at the school told ABC-7’s Darren Hunt the decision to end practice outside was made about 15 minutes before the wind gusts picked up the stands.
“I’m always making sure that it’s safe for us to come out and then I also have an app on my phone that alerts me when the lightening is 25 miles away, 20 miles away, and then at 12 miles, I start getting the guys inside,” said Chaparral High Athletic Trainer Stacy Walsh.
The trainer said she would prefer bleachers anchored to the ground. “I’ve never seen bleachers come across a track, go flying like that,” Walsh said, “It looked like the bleachers just tipped and went over, took out part of the fence. I’m just glad nobody was out here.”
When asked if the bleachers need to be anchored to the ground, Mark Rupcich, the school’s principal, said, “I’m sure it needs to be done … we get severe storms in the Chaparral area.”
Rupcich said he is sure the school district “will take into consideration what happened at CHS and make sure that any other bleachers have adequate anchoring.”
ABC-7 reached out to the National Weather Service, which has a site near Chaparral.
“It only recorded 39 mph wind last night around 6pm. Our guess, without looking at radar data, is that there was likely a micro-burst with 60+ mph winds that went through that area,” the NWS said.
The district told ABC-7 the bleachers were installed in 2012 by the Roswell-based AK Sales. ABC-7 spoke with Art Moyle, the owner of AK Sales. When Moyle was told the bleachers were not anchored, he said, “It should have been anchored down. I don’t know why it wasn’t. It’s not anything we have to follow, but it is the recommended way of doing it.”
“We thought this could never happen. It happened. Thank God nobody was hurt,” Rupcich said.