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Enterprise Officials Knew About Weather Threat

By Associated Press

Enterprise, AL – Administrators at Enterprise High School -- where eight students died in yesterday's tornado -- were warned about severe weather nearly three hours before the twister struck.

That raises questions for officials about whether classes should have been dismissed earlier.

Sirens began going off about 10:30 a-m-. The tornado struck about one-15 p-m-.

Residents living near Enterprise High say they heard warning sirens long before the tornado slammed into the brick building, collapsing a wall and crushing the victims in an avalanche of concrete and metal.

Pearl Green, whose 15-year-old niece attends the school and was hit in the head by a flying brick, says the twister came real fast, but, she says, ``they had plenty of time to get those kids out because sirens were going off all morning.''

But school officials say they had no chance to evacuate earlier because of waves of bad weather moving across the southeastern corner of the state.

And today, Gov. Bob Riley defended administrators' actions after a tour of the school, saying sometimes the worst happens.

Says Riley: ``I don't know of anything they didn't do. If I had been there, I hope I would have done as well as they did.''

The students were among 10 people killed in Alabama in yesterday's violent storms.

Warning sirens began blaring about 10:30 a.m., prompting school officials to shoo the high school's 12-hundred students into interior halls -- supposedly the safest part of the building.

A ``significant number'' of students checked out after the initial warnings, and administrators decided to dismiss classes at one p-m.,

Assistant Superintendent Bob Phares says with hundreds of students still huddled inside the school, emergency management officials warned that a possible twister was on the way and advised officials to hold students until 1:30 p.m.

The storm hit about 1:15.

A wall in one hall collapsed, and the concrete slab roof fell on students, killing them.

President Bush plans to visit Enterprise tomorrow (Saturday), and trucks brought in by relief agencies already surround the school, which will likely be demolished.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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