January tornado damage disrupting Benjamin, Dwyer spring sports


When a tornado ripped through Palm Beach Gardens in the early morning hours of Jan. 23, it left behind crumpled bleachers, battered dugouts and twisted masses of metal at the Benjamin School and nearby Dwyer High School.

The schools’ athletic fields took the brunt of the damage after severe storms lashed northern Palm Beach County, forcing both schools to close for a day because of safety concerns.

At Dwyer, the storms blew the roofs off both softball dugouts, destroyed batting cages and a baseball equipment shed, and knocked down most of the fencing surrounding the baseball and softball fields.

An exact damage estimate is unknown, but Superintendent Robert Avossa gave a preliminary figure of $500,000-$1 million when he toured the school in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

At Benjamin, the storm ripped up the bleachers at the football stadium; crumpled the stadium’s press box; destroyed the tennis court fencing and wind screens; knocked down a scoreboard and a light pole at the football field; tore chunks out of the track; damaged the softball and baseball scoreboards; and destroyed most of the school’s outdoor athletic equipment.

The turf on the football field also was severely damaged and most likely needs to be replaced, Athletic Director Ryan Smith said.

Smith estimated storm damage at well over $1 million.

“We are still working with our insurance company and vendors to determine (the amount),” he said.

What does this mean for both schools’ athletic teams this spring?

A big headache.

At Dwyer, the baseball and softball fields have turned into a construction site. The old fencing has been removed, and new fencing will be in place by the end of the month, school district spokeswoman Julie Houston Trieste said. The backstops also need to be redesigned, which could take another month.

As a result, the Panthers’ baseball and softball teams have pushed back most of their home games until the end of March, when the fields are expected to be ready. For now, both teams are practicing off-campus.

“It’s not ideal,” said Dwyer softball coach Kim Jalm, whose team is practicing at Independence Middle School in Jupiter. “We don’t really have a home, and it definitely feels that way.”

Managing practice and game schedules has been even trickier at Benjamin, where tennis, lacrosse and track and field all have been affected by the storm.

The boys and girls tennis teams, both coached by Delores Colton, are practicing and playing matches at the Palm Beach Gardens Tennis Center.

The facility on 117th Court North has been a gracious host, Colton said, though it’s been an adjustment for her players.

“They are all coping very well,” she said. “Hauling equipment and dealing with snacks and drinks for guests is harder. The players also have to get used to playing on clay courts instead of hard courts. They are adapting well. Palm Beach Gardens Tennis Center staff have been wonderful to work with. They definitely saved our season.”

Colton said she hopes to be back on campus for district tournament competition in April.

The Bucs’ boys and girls lacrosse teams also have had to scatter this spring, with the teams practicing at various sites throughout northern Palm Beach County.

Home games will be played at Benjamin’s lower school campus in North Palm Beach, and start times have been pushed up to 4 p.m.

The new schedule has taken a little getting used to, but there have been few complaints from the players, boys lacrosse coach Shane Rye said.

“Nobody got hurt,” he said. “We wake up every day with an unlimited supply of fresh water. There’s a lot of other things to complain about. Having to travel a little bit isn’t really that big of a deal.”

Benjamin also has had to cancel two track meets, according to Smith. The track needs to be repaired, and the school is waiting on replacement equipment.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

Report: Dwight Freeney to visit Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday
Report: Dwight Freeney to visit Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday

With both of their starting defensive ends battling injuries, the Seattle Seahawks are scheduled to host veteran defensive end Dwight Freeney for a visit and physical on Tuesday. Seattle desperately needs to bolster their pass rush with Cliff Avril on Injured Reserve for at least seven more games as he recovers from a severe...
A ‘humbled’ USC harping ball security ahead of Arizona State
A ‘humbled’ USC harping ball security ahead of Arizona State

The headlines, as they can often do, say it all: Notre Dame capitalizes on turnovers to crush USC – Chicago Sun-Times. USC doesn’t put up much of a fight in 49-14 loss to Notre Dame – LA Times. Whether the Trojans read those stories or not doesn’t much matter. They lived the nightmare that was Saturday night in South...
Dolphins DE Cameron Wake quietly building Hall of Fame caliber resume
Dolphins DE Cameron Wake quietly building Hall of Fame caliber resume

Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake rarely gets mentioned when people discuss the best defensive players to play in the National Football League over the last decade. That is not only puzzling, it’s also downright foolish. Since 2009, his first year in the league, Wake has accumulated 87.5 sacks, which is more than every other...
The Tape Don’t Lie: Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets, a review
The Tape Don’t Lie: Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets, a review

  Matt Moore led the Miami Dolphins to victory against the NY Jets on Sunday. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) Dolphins coach  Adam Gase says, “The tape don’t lie.” So each week, I’ll give the game tape a closer look. Here are some things I noticed after watching Miami’s remarkable come-from-behind...
USC’s Porter Gustin, Josh Fatu working way back onto field
USC’s Porter Gustin, Josh Fatu working way back onto field

Clay Helton met with reporters on Monday, two days after USC’s crushing loss to Notre Dame that significantly altered the potential of the 2017 season. Helton was candid, talking about how he and his staff are well aware of his team’s need to work on stopping the run, per the Los Angeles Times’ Shotgun Spratling...
More Stories