Opelika gym staff protects young athletes as severe weather pummels building, topples trees


OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) – Monday night, as severe weather pummeled east Alabama, the staff at Opelika Power Athletics knew precisely how to protect nearly 30 young athletes inside the gym as the wind whistled outside, snapping trees and downing power lines.

Tiffany Chandler is the director of Opelika Power Athletics, a gymnastics, tumbling, and cheer center with Opelika’s Parks and Recreation Department. The facility is located just across from Opelika Middle School along Densen Drive and was the scene of moderate damage after Monday’s intense thunderstorms.

“The rain was intense, but the wind was interesting cause it was so hard, just whipping around and whistling. The cracking of the trees is never a good thing to hear, and I know the big one outside, and the one tree near the middle school shook the ground a little when they fell,” said Chandler.

Chandler’s passion for her Opelika Power Athletics family is unmistakable. She describes her young athletes and coaches as her family. Chandler gets emotional thinking about how Monday night’s severe weather could have been so much worse.

Chandler says she was picking up her daughter from swim lessons when her husband called and told her trees were falling, and she needed to get to safety.

“We were not going to wait on an alarm or a Tornado Warning or anything to go off to keep these kiddos safe,” said Chandler.

Chandler called her staff at the gym and the severe weather safety plan was deployed quickly. The effort was seamless as the staff practices the steps every month.

“Which is great because the staff knows the plan, and no one panics. They know how to get it done and get it done efficiently. It helps keep the kids in good spirits,” said Chandler.

When Chandler got there five minutes later, she ran into the gym with her daughter. The athletes were being ushered into the bathrooms and coaches covered them with gym mats. Chandler, coaches, and parents huddled in the hall, with another mat covering the glass cases as the wind battered the building.

“The wind tore off a skylight. Thankfully, it didn’t fall through, but it pretty much ripped it off. So, we had a nice puddle of water on our gymnasium floor,” said Chandler.

The city has already replaced the skylight to protect the gym floor from further rain damage as another round of thunderstorms enters the area Tuesday night. The gym is closed for the next two days to make repairs. Thankfully Chandler and her staff were able to roll up the floor mats to keep them from mildewing. The wood floor is drying out, and classes should resume as usual on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Chandler remains grateful no one was hurt in the storm and says the young athletes even had fun because her staff and parents were able to keep them calm.

“They thought it was great. They had little mats over their heads and thought it was a little house. Really, everyone was in great spirits,” said Chandler.

Weathering the storm has bonded the Opelika Power Athletic’s family even stronger together.

For more information on classes offered at Opelika Power Athletics you can visit their Facebook Page: Opelika Power Athletics

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