September 19, 2008

Remnants of Hurricane Ike damage church property, topple trees

Workers use a crane to assess the damage to the steeple at St. Mary Church in New Albany on Sept. 15. (Submitted photo)

Workers use a crane to assess the damage to the steeple at St. Mary Church in New Albany on Sept. 15. (Submitted photo)

By Mary Ann Wyand

Wind gusts reaching 75 mph, churned northward by the remnants of Hurricane Ike, wreaked havoc in southern and southeastern Indiana on Sept. 14, breaking two Catholic church spires, damaging properties and toppling trees.

Storm damage in the New Albany, Tell City, Seymour and Batesville deaneries left thousands of residents without power or telephone service and forced officials to cancel or delay classes at many schools.

High winds reported at 50 mph in central Indiana damaged property, downed trees and caused power outages.

Eric Atkins, director of the archdiocesan Office of Management Services, received a number of calls from priests and parish staff members on Sept. 15 reporting storm damage to Church properties in southern and southeastern Indiana.

Atkins said on Sept. 15 as The Criterion went to press that a lot of parishes do not have power or phone service, but he expected to receive their reports and photographs of storm damage this week.

He said calls should be referred to Mike Witka, the archdiocese’s director of risk management, and Jerry Pachciarz, the claims administrator for Gallagher Bassett Services Inc., who are responding to damage reports.

“The steeple at St. Mary Church in New Albany had some wind damage,” Atkins said, “and they’re in the process of taking that steeple down because it’s not safe to stay up in its present condition. They have arranged with a contractor to get a crane to the site and get the top portion down because it’s leaning.”

St. Boniface Church in Fulda also sustained damage to the steeple, he said. “They had the steeple restored and re-clad with new copper a couple of years ago, and did a beautiful job. Unfortunately, it’s leaning now and may have to come down.”

Atkins said St. John the Baptist Parish in Starlight reported “a tremendous amount of wind damage on the church and various buildings” as well as trees down on the property.

St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Clarksville has roof damage on various buildings, trees down and damage in the cemetery,” he said. “I don’t know the full extent of their damage yet.”

At St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Morris, Atkins said, “wind got in under the church roof and cracked a couple of rafters.”

Father Jonathan Meyer, administrator of St. Joseph and St. Ann parishes in Jennings County, told Atkins that the roofs on St. Joseph Church and rectory were damaged, with shingles blown off, and windows in the attic of the rectory were blown in by high winds.

Atkins said 70 mph to 75 mph gusts of wind were reported at various locations across the southern part of the archdiocese.

Father Thomas Clegg, pastor of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Augustine parishes in Jeffersonville, reported missing slate and ridge capping on the roof of St. Augustine Church as well as trees down, Atkins said. One tree fell on a parish building and caused minor damage.

St. Lawrence Parish in Lawrenceburg reported that the brick parapet wall that extends above the flat portion of the school roof was blown in,” Atkins said. “Pieces of limestone coping, bricks and a 500-pound section of decorative limestone fell in on the existing rubber roof, which is torn.”

He said St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross Parish in Bright reported that a door on the parish center was blown in and trees are down on the parish property.

“There are a lot of parishes in the southern part of the archdiocese that we can’t even get a hold of right now,” Atkins said. “We’re assuming that they are without power and phone service. We’re just going to have to wait. We’re trying to assess the [storm] damage right now, and take emergency measures to prevent further loss and damage to the buildings. So far, there are no personal injuries that we are aware of.” †

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