A spokeswoman for Sampson County Schools said part of the roof near the back part of the Union Intermediate Elementary School's gym blew off. About 25 children were in the gym at the time, but they ran the other way as bricks and wooden beams started falling.
Video footage obtained by ABC11 on Tuesday captured the scene as children dashed away from the oncoming burst of wind.
A DAY AFTER THE STORMS: Here’s a look at the damage inside Union Intermediate School. The stage inside the gymnasium is destroyed. Architects and engineers are on scene today assessing and clearing debris. #abc11 pic.twitter.com/zf3JCI0ssm— Akilah Davis (@DavisABC11) January 14, 2020
"The students were doing their gym activities and all of a sudden, it's just debris starts flowing in and you see the sky," Sampson County Schools spokewoman Wendy Cabral said.
Three children were taken to the hospital. The extent of their injuries was unknown Tuesday.
Fifth grader Kevin and his younger brother said they heard the crashing from another part of the school.
"So, I was praying in the middle of that moment so everybody could be safe," Kevin said, adding that his friends are OK and weren't seriously injured.
Sampson County Schools said administrators dismissed children early and got them on buses or to the middle school while they waited for parents to arrive.
"What a blessing it is that only three students were injured and those three students are going to be okay," Cabral said. "We can fix this building, but students are our priority and we're very blessed that they're okay."
Sampson County was under a severe thunderstorm warning from 2:12 to 3 p.m.
Classes were canceled at the school Tuesday.
"There's a lot of debris and glass in that class in that gym, at this time," Cabral said.
The National Weather Service said a microburst from the storm is to blame for the damage.