TILDEN TOWNSHIP -- The National Weather Service has confirmed that an EF1 tornado touched down in Berks County, where an elementary school was destroyed Thursday evening.
Blue Mountain Adventist Elementary, a private Christian school, has 35 students and is just beyond the Schuylkill County line near Hamburg. The school now sits destroyed, its roof torn off and debris scattered across the property.
"I don't get why the swings are still standing and the school is just demolished," asked fourth grader Amada Lazo.
Principal Rachel Wardecke was the only one inside when it happened. She had to crawl her way out after this severe storm came and went in a matter of minutes.
"All of a sudden the wind blew and stuff was flying at me and I was on the ground," said Wardecke.
Teachers and staff were at the school Friday, salvaging what they could while the National Weather Service inspected the school and officially determined it was a tornado that caused all the damage, with winds of at least 105 miles per hour.
"It's unbelievable," said Kristen Engen, a former student. "It's unreal. It's devastating. This is where all my memories happened and now it's gone."
Kindergarten teacher Linda Johnson still can't believe what's in front of her. An hour before the school was destroyed on Thursday, she was inside her classroom inspecting the new carpet put in earlier that day.
"An hour later, I look out my front door and this is what I see and it was just devastating," said Johnson. "Your heart it just falls because you don't have words for it."
Even with the roof gone and most of the books and supplies ruined, the principal vowed that they will rebuild.
"We'll have to work with the students a little bit on what happened because this is going to be trauma for them as well," Wardecke added.
"We'll just rebuild from the ground up," Johnson said.
Until a new school is built, students at Blue Mountain Elementary will go across the street and have classes at Blue Mountain Academy, also owned by the Adventist Church. The principal told Newswatch16 it's too soon to tell if they'll be able to start school as scheduled in August.
Two more tornadoes have been confirmed from Thursdays storm. The first, an EF0 in Snyder County. The second, an EF1 in Lycoming County.