By LANDON WOODROOF
A brief but damaging snap of severe weather thundered its way through Brentwood on Tuesday afternoon, causing a partial roof collapse at a daycare and a tree to fall on a car trapping a driver.
No serious injuries happened in either incident.
Heavy rains were the culprit in the partial roof collapse at The Academy of Powell Place daycare and preschool center in Maryland Farms. A portion of the flat roof caved into a classroom after torrential rains pounded the city. No children were injured.
The quick thinking of The Academy staff was critical in preventing a catastrophe at the center, Brentwood Fire & Rescue Department Assistant Chief David Windrow said.
“A very alert teacher heard what she knew to be … cracking,” he said. The teacher rushed her students out into the hallway and then staff “took every kid out of the complete building not knowing if something else was going to happen.”
A few minutes later, a section of the roof crashed down into the classroom.
“I think the staff should be praised for recognizing the situation and acting as quickly as they did,” Fire & Rescue Chief Brian Goss said.
Windrow agreed, citing in particular the actions of the teacher who heard the cracking and vacated her classroom.
“She’s the hero in this,” he said. “She probably saved some kids’ lives.”
Nearly 100 kids were shuffled out of the building in the pouring rain, through the parking lot and over to the Tennessee Society of Certified Accountants building next door.
Preschool teacher Autumn Oberholzer said she ventured out into the hallway at The Academy around 3:20 p.m. after hearing a commotion. She and other teachers noticed water accumulating on the ground and figured it was time to evacuate.
Oberholzer thanked The Academy’s director, Casey Williams, for her role in getting students and teachers out of the building safely.
“She was really quick to warn us all and let us know,” she said. “It was actually really quick. I was really proud of us.”
Oberholzer said some of the kids grew upset having to walk in the downpour over to the TSCA office, but their mood lifted shortly thereafter.
“Once we got them inside and dried off with warm clothes, they all calmed down,” she said. “We had fun. They set us up with movies on the projectors and towels and stuff, so it was really awesome.”
At 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, fire & rescue crews were busy sweeping standing water out of The Academy building. They had roped off the room where the collapse happened, deeming it too dangerous to enter. Windrow said they were expecting a further collapse near the first one.
National Weather Service Meteorologist John Barnwell said Brentwood experienced a radar estimated total of one-and-a-half to two-and-a-quarter inches of rainfall during Tuesday’s brief storm.
He said the majority of the rain fell in the last hour or so of the three-hour storm.
“That’s a considerable amount of rainfall in a short time,” he said.
Goss said water weighs about 8.3 pounds per gallon.
“It doesn’t take long to put a 1,000 gallons on a roof, so that’s four tons of water,” he said.
Elsewhere in Brentwood Tuesday afternoon, a tree fell onto a car on Murray Lane, trapping the driver inside.
Barnwell said heavy rains will often soften up soil around trees, making them more likely to topple in a storm.
The accident closed both eastbound lanes of Murray Lane for a time. Brentwood Police Department Assistant Chief Thomas Walsh said the driver suffered only minor injuries.
Public safety officials received several other weather-related calls on Tuesday afternoon. Goss said Fire & Rescue got about four or five calls concerned about flooding in neighborhoods. In Meadowlake, he said a couple of houses had water rise within a couple of feet of their front doors.
Walsh said there was a report of a person whose vehicle flooded after driving into high water. That person was uninjured. There were also a few scattered reports of downed trees and wires.
“Thankfully as hard as it rained, it was short-lived,” Goss said. “If we’d have had that rain for another 30 minutes I think we really would have had some problems on our hands.”