Tornado Destroys Lancaster Amish Schoolhouse; 50 Homes Damaged

A rare February tornado wreaked havoc Wednesday evening in Lancaster County, destroying an Amish schoolhouse and damaging around 50 area homes. The schoolhouse is expected to be rebuilt within a week. Thankfully, since the storm hit in the evening, no one was in the building. From

It happened in Salisbury Township where 30 students spanning from first through eighth grade attend school.

The storm left desks, books and other items from the one-room schoolhouse blown across the farmland. The building itself was leveled and only a playground swing-set is still standing.

A member of the mostly-Amish community told News 8: “Thank God the tornado came through at night and not during the day when children would have been at school.”

Members of both the Plain and English communities worked together on cleanup. Video showed aerial images of the damage, as well as the destroyed school and cleanup efforts by Amish.

How do Amish, without television or (for the most part) other electronic media, learn on short notice of dangerous weather situations like this?

This story describes how non-Amish alerted their Amish neighbors, in turn “saving lives”:

“One of the questions we’ve been asked is, ‘since this is an Amish community, how did the Amish get the tornado warnings?'” Lancaster County Emergency Services Director Randall Gockley said at a press conference Thursday. “They said that neighbors took the time to come over and tell them in those minutes prior to the storm hitting.”

That is something very commendable, Gockley added, and it shows just how close this community is.

With some neighborly help and adequate warning time from the National Weather Service, Gockley said, “That’s what saved lives.”

The storm caused an estimated $8 million-plus in damage in the Gap and White Horse areas.

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    1. Linda

      The school house will be rebuilt in 10 days! Amazing what people can do if they work together. I am guessing they don’t have to get all the permits and have inspectors come out like we do.
      Maybe they could get a hand siren that they could use as a weather warning to others.

    2. City Slicker

      Tornado Recovery

      One TV reporter said that someone told her “…this will be rebuilt in a couple weeks”..; a passing Amishman then told her “…Give us two days…”.

      It was also noted that many Amish sites had been cleaned up even before the National Weather Service arrived to determine if there had in fact been a tornado.

      I believe the Amish do have to deal with building inspectors, but I’d also think their construction methods and techniques probably surpass local code requirements. They do not, however, have to be concerned with wiring the buildings.

      One big hurdle the Amish don’t have to contend with is insurance carriers and waiting for adjusters to come out to inspect.

      It appears the larger community has banded together to assist everyone affected, Amish and English alike.

    3. Amy

      It’s nice to see such a close community. Praise God that it hit at night and the damage seems to be contained to things replaceable.

    4. City Slicker


      Reconstruction of the Whitehall Amish School, leveled by the tornado last Wednesday evening, is expected to be completed today — and school will resume on Monday.

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    5. Alice Mary


      …what can be accomplished in the wake of a natural disaster in Amish territory. English & Amish working together can work virtual miracles, it seems. Hoping for a peaceful (weather-wise) remainder of the year, and continued cooperation between both communities & cultures.

    6. Shirley Chapel

      Visio refused to open so I was unable to see the damage. Sorry to hear of all the damage this Amish community suffered. Prayers for this hurting community and the loss of the school house and the homes.

    7. 340

      Rebuilding after Tornado

      Most all of what was destroyed by the tornado is totally rebuilt like it never happened. Sunup brought hundreds and hundreds of Amish out to help with clean up and organization. It was like organized chaos. By mid day lumber was coming in, food was brought in and it was clearly evident that everything was under control and everyone just worked in whatever capacity they best knew how to. No red tape … Just work sun up to sun down until it was done. God is good.

    8. Alice Mary

      Someone (Erik?) should write a book about this “organized chaos” that occurs in Amish communities when disasters happen. I’ll bet it would be a hit, appeal to many people from various walks of life—the business community, religious communities, psychologists, you name it.

      It’s truly awesome to hear things have been repaired, rebuilt and are settling back to normalcy. Truly inspiring to me!

      Alice Mary