North Carolina students flee as microburst rips school's roof off, injuring 3

Students at an elementary school in North Carolina were forced to run for their lives after severe storms moving through the area Monday spawned a microburst that tore apart the building's roof and wall, injuring three people.

The National Weather Service's Office in Raleigh said Tuesday that a team confirmed a microburst damaged the Union Intermediate School in Sampson County. It was reported shortly after 1:30 p.m. Monday, with estimated peak winds of 80 to 85 mph.

“We were playing basketball, and it just sounded like something exploded in there," Chloe Brewer, a fifth-grade student at the school, told WRAL-TV.

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Brewer was one of 21 students in the gym at the time the storms rolled through the area about 40 miles southeast of Fayetteville.

“I just turned around and was looking at the stage, and it just collapsed,” she told WRAL-TV. “And then we started running, and something hit me from behind, and I fell down. And then the glass started breaking.”

Video released Tuesday by the school district shows students playing in the gym before running away as the roof begins to fall in.

Students can be seen running as the roof begins to fall in when a microburst hit the area.

Students can be seen running as the roof begins to fall in when a microburst hit the area. (Sampson County Schools)

A section of a wall and stage also sustained major damage as the roof collapsed.

Brewer and two other students were taken to the hospital for injuries, but were released by Tuesday.

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Principal Dondi Hobbs told WRAL-TV that if the storms had struck Tuesday afternoon, the gym would have been filled with up to 450 students for an assembly.

According to the NWS, microbursts are a column of sinking air within a thunderstorm smaller than 2.5 miles wide. The strong surge of air spreads out in all directions upon hitting the ground; the area where the microburst hits first gets the highest winds and greatest damage.

"Microbursts can cause extensive damage at the surface, and in some instances, can be life-threatening," the NWS states.

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Officials in Sampson County said that due to storm damage, the school was closed Tuesday and Wednesday for students as cleanup was underway.

Wendy Cabral, a spokeswoman with Sampson County Schools, told CBS17  officials are confident the building can be rebuilt.