LINCOLN, R.I. — Surveillance video from Lincoln High School shows the moment wind gusts toppled the press box at the school’s football stadium Wednesday night.
Just minutes before the storm passed over the high school, residents received a warning that a tornado could be in their immediate vicinity. The strong winds blew a blue dumpster across the parking lot, and then knocked the press box off its perch atop the stadium’s bleachers. Contents of the building were strewn around the aluminum seats.
The National Weather Service said Wednesday it did appear likely a tornado had occurred during the storm that passed through parts of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. But a weather service investigation on Thursday shows that wind, not a tornado, damaged the school’s press box.
“One of our staff members went out there last night and confirmed the damage to have been from straight-line winds and not from a tornado,” the NWS said in an email to the Globe.
On Thursday afternoon, the NWS in Norton said that a survey team confirmed other damage that took place in Lincoln was due to a tornado, along with damage in Killingly, Conn., Foster, R.I., Glocester, R.I., and North Attleboro, Mass. The team is still determining if the tornado followed a continuous path or separate touchdowns occurred, and what the intensity rating (Enhanced Fujita Scale, EF Scale), path, and width are.
Town Administrator Philip G. Gould surveyed the damage Wednesday night at the stadium, and at other flood-related incidents on the northern edge of town. He said there were unconfirmed reports of tornadoes “touching down.”
“I don’t know if this in fact was one of them [a tornado] but it certainly was a strong enough gust to take our press box into the bleachers,” Gould said. “So we’re dealing with that and making sure it’s marked unsafe so people don’t go into it.”
Winds overturned a UPS box and uprooted trees at an office complex on Old River Road, right across the street from the high school.
The high school’s newly built athletic facility along George Washington Highway did not appear to have any damage.
The Lincoln football team plays at North Smithfield at 7 p.m. on Friday. The Lions are 2-0 this season. If the game had been at home, it would have been moved, according to school officials.
Lincoln Public Schools Superintendent Lawrence P. Filippelli said the press box is “unusable” and an insurance company is coming out to look at it. He said there would be repair or replacement. He did not have damage estimates.
The toppled structure has communication and exposed electric cables.
Filippelli said the press box is less than 20 years old.
“For now, we ask people to respect it,” said Gould about the damage.