JACKSON, Tenn. – College officials plan to begin a major clean-up project this week on the small campus of Union University after a tornado forced students to take shelter in dormitory bathrooms.
The tornado's path of destruction trapped 13 people under shredded walls, floors and rubble until rescuers could dig them out. Fifty-one students were hospitalized, with nine suffering serious injuries. There were no reported deaths.
Bethany Anderson, a student at Union University, told FOX News she ran for safety with fellow students in the bathroom.
"It was the most eerie thing," Anderson said. "The lights went out and we ran into the bathroom. The room was shaking. You felt like destruction all around you. All you could do is just pray."
Anderson, wearing donated clothes, said she felt that God protected the campus from further damage and loss of life.
A storm system slammed Tennessee from Memphis in the west, stretching east to beyond Nashville, across five Southern states that left at least 50 people dead while rescue teams searched the rubble for more victims.
The Jackson, Tenn., campus suffered nearly $40 million in damage but plans to resume classes after Feb. 18.
"At this time, we want to thank everyone who has given help, provided service and offered ongoing prayer on behalf of Union University," said David Dockery, president of Union University, in a statement.
Tim Ellsworth, the school's news director, said the school's dorms had been "reduced to piles of rubble. I know we had students huddled in the bathrooms."
"A couple of buildings have almost completely collapsed and the roof of Jennings Hall is almost completely gone," he said.
Lindsay Parrish, a student at Union University, broke her wrist and sprained her ankle during the chaos to escape the tornado's path of destruction.
"Right when the tornado hit, I jumped in the bathroom on top of three other girls," Parrish told FOX News.
Planning for emergencies and broadcast warnings of the twisters prevented more serious injuries, Dockery said at a news conference Wednesday.
"When the sirens went off the entire process went into place quickly," Dockery said. Students "were ushered into rooms, into the bathrooms, interior spaces."
The students "demonstrated who they are and I'm so proud of them," Dockery said.
"We've seen damage on this campus before but nothing that even comes close," Dockery told reporters in the televised news conference. "You see these major buildings — $20 million academic buildings — that roofs are off of them. It's hard to even think about what is in front of us in terms of rebuilding."
The small, private college is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
The violent weather struck Tennessee hours before the polls closed on Super Tuesday and continued into early Wednesday as the system headed east.
Tennessee officials report up to 75 people were injured by the storms, most of them in the Jackson area, about 75 miles northeast of Memphis.
Jackson-Madison County General Hospital spokeswoman Jan Boud said the emergency room treated patients with serious lacerations and broken bones, but no life-threatening injuries. The other patients had minor injuries and most were released within a few hours, she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.