A tornado that ravaged several buildings Tuesday at a children's church campus near Allen failed to dampen the enthusiasm of 35 teens and their counselors who weathered the storm in a church hallway.
"This group we have here is so amazing," said the Rev. Shelly Bentley of Makoche Wakan Ministries, formerly known as the Pass Creek Church. The church sits about a quarter of a mile southeast of Allen in Bennett County.
The teens were just sitting down to dinner when the storm hit. An adult who ran outside to check his popup camper had to be pulled back into the building when the wind caught a screen door, Bentley said Wednesday.
National Weather Service experts visited Allen Wednesday and confirmed that a tornado rated as an EF1 on a zero to five on the Enhanced Fujita Scale touched down briefly on the south edge of town.
Winds were estimated at between 105 and 110 miles per hour, based on the damage sustained.
No one was at home when the storm blew walls out of the Kermit Salway home and tore the roofs off two other homes. Two empty mobile homes were destroyed. No injuries were reported, however.
The American Red Cross Black Hills Chapter rushed to Allen on Tuesday night to provide assistance to families displaced by the storm.
Many people took shelter in basements or inside rooms. At the church, teens and adults from Wyoming and Nebraska huddled in a church hallway. The church escaped unscathed, but several outbuildings were damaged.
Bentley, who has a back injury, was sleeping in her home next to the church when she woke up feeling "panicky."
"It was completely green-looking outside," Bentley said. She rushed to close windows and call in her dogs as the wind started to howl.
"The wind was so strong and it was raining so hard, I couldn't go there," she said.
A neighbor saw the wind lift a roof off one of the ministry's buildings. The roof disappeared, she said.
Not long after the weather cleared up Tuesday, Bentley heard the youth groups in the church sanctuary singing "How Great Thou Art."
"These kids are tough," said Jacky Carnahan of Hastings, Neb.
Carnahan brought eight teens ranging in age from 14 to 17 to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation Sunday. The group joined teens from Lingle, Wyo., there to help with a week of vacation Bible school.
The teenagers refused to let the storm force them to give up their mission, Carnahan said. "These are fabulous kids."
Allen, a community of approximately 455 people, is considered the poorest community in the nation. At least 80 children are attending the nearby Bible school, Carnahan said.
The Hastings and Lingle teenagers spent Wednesday cleaning up debris. One of the buildings that lost its roof held all of the church's supplies of clothing, food, household supplies and church materials. Amazingly, most of it was left undamaged, Bentley said.
Bible school was expected to resume today.
"God is faithful and has protected us," Carnahan said.