FAIRBORN — Graduation will not be forgotten by members of the Xenia High School class of 2017 any time soon.
As the seniors were walking across the stage to receive their diploma case inside the Wright State Nutter Center, an unexpected storm formed in southern Greene County moving north toward the Xenia and Fairborn areas, prompting several tornado warnings.
The final commencement activities were cancelled, but all students were able to walk across the stage first.
“As soon as the last student received their diploma, an official from the Nutter Center (marketing manager Misty Cox) went up to the microphone and said we are under a tornado warning, we need for the students on the floor (about 300 plus band members) to go to the McLin gym and we need for everyone that is in the seats to come down as low as you can,” Superintendent Denny Morrison said.
The floor was kept clear due to the large scoreboard hanging overhead, Morrison added. The concourse was cleared due to the large amount of glass doors.
The first warning was issued around 7:55 p.m. for southwestern Greene County according to the National Weather Service and was cancelled around 8:15. A second was issued for western Greene County at 8:20, to expire at 8:45. The third was issued at 9:05 until 9:30 for the area around the Nutter Center. It is believed that was the storm that led to a tornado touchdown in Clark County.
As a result graduation concluded early, Morrison said.
“(Principal) Hank Jackoby went to the podium and said the program is done,” he said. The only items left on the schedule were the alma mater and recessional.
The all-clear came around 9:25 p.m.
There were media reports that the Nutter Center was locked down, but that was not the case according to Morrison and Nutter Center officials. Cox “highly recommended” people stay, but she said they could not be forced to do so.
Clearing the floor and moving people to lower seats is protocol, Cox said. There were around 3,000 in the arena seating areas.
The National Weather Service was expected to survey Greene County in an attempt to confirm if a tornado touched down.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502.4507. Greene County News reporter Whitney Vickers contributed to this story.