Castlewood Strong! Class of 2022 perseveres after tornado left school in rubble

Kerry Kulkarni
Watertown Public Opinion
Castlewood High School Class of 2022 flung their hats in celebration outside their tornado battered school building Thursday.

Castlewood High School graduation is traditionally held in the school's gymnasium. But after a tornado tore through the school building May 12, the class of 2022, along with their friends and families, gathered at Lake Area Technical College to receive their diplomas.

"I'm thanking you all for your efforts in cleaning up our community and donating your time and resources to make this celebration possible," said salutatorian Brianna Zimny. "It is no secret that the events that led us here today were not intended to end our senior year."

Graduate Addyson Wittnebel gives her mother Peggy a hug and a white carnation during the Castlewood High School graduation at Lake Area Tech on Saturday.

Despite the destruction that ripped through their city, Castlewood seniors brought proud tears and happy hugs to their graduation ceremony.

One of those happy moments was between graduating senior Addyson Wittnebel and her mother, Peggy.

The Castlewood High School graduation ceremony was held at Lake Area Technical College on Saturday.

"I thought graduation went very well. LATC did a great job," said Peggy. "It was different to have it here, but it was good."

Addyson will be attending LATC in the fall to study cosmetology.

In an attempt to bring an "at home" element to the graduating class, a celebration was held in Castlewood on Thursday. The graduates wore their caps and gowns and paraded through town amongst the cleanup efforts and debris.

High School graduates Addyson Wittnebel and Jaron Tharaldsen gave themselves a congratulations as they paraded through the streets of town during Thursday's graduation celebration in Castlewood.

The tornado that cut through Castlewood was given an EF2 rating on the Fujita scale. The lowest rating on the scale is EF0, and the highest is EF5. The highest winds in the tornado were 120 mph, according to a National Weather Service damage survey.

Inspections that were completed last week revealed that the majority of the Castlewood school building remained structurally sound, but patchwork needed to be done to the battered roof to prevent any further water damage to the building.

The building section that is not structurally sound includes the old gym, lunchroom and elementary.

Work is already being done to make the building safe for construction and rebuilding to begin.

"We still have a lot of cleanup to do, but we are Castlewood Strong," said Peggy.