FAIRBORN — As the final Xenia High School class of 2017 students received their diploma during the graduation commencement ceremony May 24 at the Wright State University Nutter Center, the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning, resulting in a change of plans during the event.
Marketing Manager Misty Cox was keeping an eye on the weather radar for the duration of the evening, staying in close contact with school administrators. After the last 15 students received their diplomas, she said, Xenia High School Principal Hank Jackoby announced that they would not perform the last items on the commencement agenda and would instead move people to a safe area of the arena.
Cox said she made seven announcements after the warning was issued for the area, first saying that the individuals on the floor must move away from that area due to the video board being in place by cables. They were moved to the McClin hallway and gym, which included the 360 graduating students, as well as the band and Xenia High School faculty members. She said 3,000-5,000 individuals were present for the graduation ceremony, but the McClin hallway and gym only holds 1,000.
Meanwhile, other individuals would remain in their seats unless they were near the top of the arena, in which they were asked to move lower. Individuals on the concourse were also asked to move to a lower part of the arena. Nutter Center officials additionally closed the curtains in the facility in case glass were to break in order to prevent further injuries and damages from occurring.
Cox said she dealt with a severe weather event during another Xenia High School graduation seven years ago, but the duration of the situation did not last nearly as long. She said the National Weather Service would extend the warnings May 24, resulting in approximately 50 minutes of action.
The Xenia Daily Gazette reported that the first tornado warning was issued around 7:55 p.m. for southwestern Greene County, according to the National Weather Service, but was cancelled around 8:15. A second warning was issued for western Greene County at 8:20, which expired at 8:45. The third was issued at 9:05 until 9:30 for the area around the Nutter Center.
It is believed that the storm caused a touchdown tornado in Clark County.
Cox said in the case of severe weather impacting the Nutter Center, the actions taken on May 24 are protocol. The Nutter Center ultimately did not suffer any damages.
Contact Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532. Scott Halasz of the Xenia Daily Gazette contributed information to this story.