SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Thursday's powerful storm pummeled the Coast at the worst time, as students were about to board buses. The risky road conditions had many parents asking why schools even opened.
Many superintendents said the wind and hail hit them out of nowhere, forcing them to make split-second decisions. On top of that, they had to deal with flooded buildings, stranded staff, and power outages. They all said their number one priority was student safety.
The staff at St. Martin Middle School had to use flash lights and cell phones to find their way around the front office. Lightning struck a nearby transformer right as classes began, leaving everyone in the dark.
"The generator is working properly, and we have limited lighting in here, but other than that, we're doing the best we can," said St. Martin Schools Assistant Superintendent Dr. Michael Van Winkle.
Throughout the day, parents came in to check-out their children. WLOX News Now asked several parents what they thought about the way the district handled the weather emergency.
"They should definitely made a better effort on trying to notify the parents about the power outages and what they were going to do to deal with it," said David Stewart.
"Wonderful, very good. They were very informative with the text messaging program that we have," said Tiffany Triplett.
School districts across the Mississippi Coast also scrambled, using mass text or call-out systems, to notify parents about buses rolling late, hazardous road conditions and flooded buildings. For parents in Biloxi who questioned why school wasn't canceled, the superintendent had this to say.
"We don't have the luxury of every parent being able to keep their child home. We're accommodating both sides. If that parent chooses not to send that child because they feel safety reasons, we understand that, too. But I can say today, we provided a safe environment for children," said Biloxi Schools Superintendent Arthur McMillan.
Due to the unprecedented weather conditions, Biloxi and St. Martin schools postponed state testing and tardies and absences are excused. St. Martin school officials say the transformer near the middle school should be fixed sometime Thursday night and classes are expected to resume Friday morning.
Many Harrison County parents also wondered why classes were held Thursday. Superintendent Roy Gill told WLOX News Now the storm caught everyone off guard and district leaders made the best decision based on the information they had at the time. Gill said all absences Thursday will be excused and he was glad everyone was safe.