By RICK THORP
NEW MARTINSVILLE - Brian Castilow could hardly believe it when he heard the news.
Magnolia’s press box, which was built in 2010, did not survive Friday night’s storm, nor did a few light posts surrounding Paden City’s football field
Castilow, the longtime athletics director at Magnolia High School, was on vacation in Colorado when he received calls and texts Friday night informing him the press box at Alumni Field was destroyed by severe weather which plowed through the area.
''We came back from dinner and my phone was full of messages and pictures,'' said Castilow, via phone from Colorado on Monday afternoon.
''I was just heartbroken. I helped them build it and the season is just right around the corner.''
Wetzel County was one of the areas hardest hit by Friday night's storm, which rolled through around 7 p.m. Athletic facilities at Magnolia and Paden City took hits.
The storm knocked out power to most of the county, including New Martinsville, which, as of Monday, was still, for the most part, without electricity.
''Some of on the north end have it, but most of the town is still without it,'' Magnolia High School Principal Kathi Schmalz said.
Not only was Alumni Field's press box destroyed, but a few of the light towers for the school's baseball field were also toppled. Schmalz said crews were working to remove the poles Monday.
Meteorologists have determined the bulk of the damage was the result of a derecho - a long-lived and widespread convection-induced straight-line windstorm associated with a fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms.
''I actually live a couple of blocks from the field and we were standing on the porch as the storm came in and it was so surreal,'' Schmalz said.
''You saw pieces of roofs flying off and pieces of metal flying through the air. But never once did I think for a split second that the press box would ever go down.''
The three-story press box was constructed in the summer of 2010 and replaced another building that had become obsolete. The bottom level, made with concrete blocks, was used for storage. The middle level was used by game-night workers and members of the media, while the top level was for coaches and videographers.
Schmalz said most of the equipment in the storage area such as the field's play clocks and scoreboard operations was also destroyed.
''It was built very sturdily,'' Schmalz said.
''A neighbor came across the street during the storm and showed by photos on Facebook of the press box laying on the track beside the field,'' Schmalz said.
''I immediately jumped in my car and took off down to the field and was completely devastated with what I saw. Everyone that worked on that volunteered their time and provided us with materials. It was a source of pride for the community. It boasted a sign recognizing the schools state championships.''
The press box never saw a loss the first season as the Blue Eagles cruised to a 14-0 record and the school's first West Virginia Class AA football crown since 1964.
The area surrounding Alumni Field resembled a war zone Saturday. As the sounds of chainsaws roared through the air, residents drove through the streets surrounding the field taking pictures of what was left of the press box.
Streets and yards were littered with trees, limbs and other items and most residents were standing outside looking for a way to beat the sweltering heat and humidity.
As expected, Schmalz said the community came together in the wake of the situation.
''You could see people driving down the street with chainsaws looking to help,'' Schmalz said. ''The parks and recreation department has opened up a shelter for people to go to get out of the weather and cool off.
''Thank God no one was hurt and I don't think anyone lost their home.
''We can replace the press box. Right now our biggest wish is to get the electric back.''
Schmalz said insurance crews are in the process of analyzing the damage. She added there is no timetable for the construction of a new press box.
''Right now, we're waiting until all the information is gathered and go from there,'' she said.
Castilow said the school has been in discussions with River High School to possibly let the Pilots use its field for home games. Construction at the home of the Pilots sparked that proposal.
''That's still a possibility,'' Schmalz said, noting the arrangement would have to be agreed upon by both district's boards of educations. ''If we have to stand on scaffolding this year to broadcast games and make room for the press that's what we'll do.
''We're not going to let this stop what we do best which is represent the school and the community. There are a lot worse things that could have happened. We can pick up the pieces.''
At Berger Field in Paden City, two light poles were downed.
Paden City High School Principal Jason Salva said Saturday while surveying the damage the field was in the midst of a renovation which likely kept damage to a minimum.
''These poles have probably been up since the 1960s or 70s,'' Salva said.
Old bleachers had already been removed and the stadium's press box, which usually stands about three stories in the air, was sitting on the ground intact.
The only part of the project that has been completed is the concrete pads for the new bleachers, which won't stretch as far as the previous ones.