Opelika church falls victim to severe weather - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Opelika church falls victim to severe weather

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Severe weather has put an Alabama church congregation out of their home.

Elders from the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Opelika tell us a lightning strike during Saturday night's storm has nearly destroyed the entire building.

Firefighters and investigators were on the scene nearly twenty-four hours after the fire ignited, making sure the building is secure and preventing a rekindle.

The fire ranged on for about an hour in the attic before Opelika firefighters got the call. It caused about $1 million in damage and was so intense the building to the left of the church practically melted.

The steeple has all but collapsed after flames consumed the building from the roof down. Church officials said the thunder from the devastating strike was heard throughout Opelika, but no one thought this storm was so bad that it could lead to the destruction of a church. 

Firefighters were able to save the sanctuary but Pastor Duncan did lose all of his prized 19th Century books and some church records.

One of the church founders, Tom Rickles, saw the fire when the flames were at their height.

"The fire department was here doing a great job and they did the best they could, but the Lord giveth and the lord taketh away. So, Lord be praised! We worshipped at the East Alabama Medical Center. They were gracious enough to let us use one of their buildings.  We probably had 200-250 people there praising the Lord and having a good day."

Much of the congregation came to see the massive fire destroy their beloved church.  They are going to be using temporary facilities in the foreseeable future until a permanent solution can be arranged.

Rickles said the church began its decades-long history without a permanent building to start with, so it is not the first time they have been without a home.  The current building has been standing since 1974.  Despite the extensive damage, Rickles believes there may still be furniture and pews that can be salvaged from inside.

Pastor Duncan says there are plans to rebuild on the same spot.

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