Although several schools are near the site of the massive gas explosion Tuesday in Sissonville, no students were ever in harm's way.
Four public schools are relatively close to the blast site, including Flinn Elementary School and Sissonville Elementary, Middle and High schools. Students were originally told to shelter in place, but that order was soon lifted, said Bev Jarrett, director of safety for Kanawha County Schools.
"Very quickly, we realized there wasn't a chemical emergency, so the schools were informed to keep the kids there but not to shelter-in-place with them," Jarrett said.
That didn't mean parents weren't worried.
Crystal Smith is the mother of two Sissonville High students. She said she was carrying a box up the stairs of the family's new home on Derricks Creek Road when the explosion happened.
"The whole house started shaking," said Jarrett, adding that she lives across the street from the Pocatalico park and ride lot. "I could see the flames from my home."
She said she raced downstairs "to see if my husband had done anything" and then quickly sent a text message to her son and daughter. She said after a few minutes her daughter responded. She couldn't talk, but they were safe.
About 10 minutes later, Smith received an automated phone message from Kanawha County Schools that gave more details. She thought her children were probably safer at school than home and had full faith in Ron Reedy, the school's principal. But she was still frightened.
"It scared me to death; I'll be honest," Smith said, describing the smoke and flames she could see from her home.
Within minutes of the blast, parents started calling Sissonville High School, Reedy said. He called Superintendent Ron Duerring, who eventually called back to say he should keep all the students on site. Although students were asked to sit in the school's gymnasium for about 20 minutes, Reedy said he was later told the order was made in error.
For the most part, students remained calm during the event, he said. However, some received false information from outside the school. One student received a text message that said a nearby nursing home was destroyed. She has a grandmother who lives in the home and she was upset, Reedy said.
"Texting is the bane of school administrators' existence," he said.