JSU president says university 'substantially recovered’ from March 2018 tornado

One year since JSU hit by tornado

JACKSONVILLE, AL (WBRC) - In advance of two ceremonies that will be held Tuesday to mark the one year anniversary of the tornado, Dr. John Beehler met with reporters to update them on the school’s recovery efforts.

Beehler said 50 of 70 buildings were damaged by the tornado. He says 40 roofs have been replaced.

Beehler says Mason Hall, which houses the music program, will be ready to move in by fall semester. It was gutted after suffering substantial interior damage.

Merrill Hall, which housed the business school, and Wallace Hall, which housed the nursing school, still have to be demolished and rebuilt.

They had planned to repair Wallace Hall, with a floorplan that allowed for bigger but fewer classrooms, but FEMA ruled the building suffered enough damage to qualify for replacement. A FEMA representative told school staffers the building can be replaced if it suffers more than 50% damage, and Beehler says the amount of damage to Wallace Hall accounted for 57%.

Beehler says the process to replace both buildings will take up to three years, but both buildings will be better than ever.

“The one thing that’s super about this process is that, you’re allowed to, under FEMA rules to do mitigation which means you can replace things with better materials and stronger materials, help prepare you for the next disaster which I hope never comes,” Beehler says.

Beehler said he wanted Merrill Hall demolished as far back as last June, but an insurance company dispute is holding up that process. He calls the building an eyesore and dangerous, and says if it weren’t state property it already would have been condemned.

Beehler says often after a natural disaster, a university suffers a drop in enrollment. But he says not so in this case--he says spring semester enrollment is up over last year, and is projected to be even higher next year.

“We’re really bucking that trend, and that’s good, because nearly 70 percent of our budget comes from tuition and fees,” said Beehler.

Two ceremonies will mark the tornado’s one year anniversary and the school’s renaissance Tuesday.

One will take place at 11:30 a.m. at Pete Mathews Coliseum, and class is being excused from eleven to two, so students can attend.

The second is a candlelight vigil in front of Bibb Graves Hall at 7:30 p.m.

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