Baker Co. storm brings back bad memories -, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Baker Co. storm brings back bad memories

Bernetta Graham points out damage to her Baker Co. home. Bernetta Graham points out damage to her Baker Co. home.

January 11, 2008

Newton --  A Baker County church is calling this morning's severe weather just bad luck. St. Matthews Missionary Baptist Church was one week into framing it's new building when it was flattened by winds.

March first, 2007, the church was destroyed when a tornado ripped through Baker County.

Now it looks as if this morning's storm followed the exact same path again devastating the same congregation just as they were beginning to see some progress. 

Frustrated, disappointed, that's how church members described it as they surveyed the damage.  It's damage this construction team has never seen.  Now they want to know how  boards, hammered together with strong cement coated nails were just ripped apart and thrown around like it was nothing.

It didn't take long for the bad news to spread.  St. Matthews Missionary Baptist Pastor Henry Hogan had to see it for himself.  "I was not anticipating this much damage," he said. "I thought it might be a little damage but it's more than I expected it to be."

A month and a half after construction began and a week into the framing and the church was reduced to rubble again.  It has some members questioning the rebuild.

"Is it a message trying to be sent that says okay, we're not supposed to be on this very little spot, maybe move over, back or something, but it does, it really does," said church member Nettie Lilly . "But then on that same note I'm saying as far as my faith is concerned I'm saying okay, I shouldn't let it shake my faith."

BMR General Contractors Owner Walter Morey said in his 59 years in the industry, he's never seen damage like this. "I've never seen this before, so I don't know.  It looks like some of the stuff fell one way and some of it the other ways."

Many passing by that have been watching the church's progress stopped, but just stood there trying to make sense of the damage.

"We start praying immediately every time we hear the word tornado, that's it," said Newton resident Mary Roach.

Some wonder if construction should continue on this spot, but St. Matthews plans to resume the construction and not let this shake their faith.

"I don't think you can run away from God I think you just have to accept things as they are and just move forward," the pastor said.

And move forward they will.  The construction company tells me 80 to 90 percent of the wood can be cleaned up and used again.  They'll probably lose two weeks of work on the construction, but expect to be back to work Monday.

St. Matthews' congregation has been holding church services every third Sunday at First Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church since the church was destroyed in March.  They say that will continue until they can complete their new building.

The damage in Baker County seems to have followed nearly the same path as the March first tornado damaging mobile homes on Dresden Circle where six people were killed last year. Residents along Dresden Circle were shaken up.  They say this morning's weather took them back to March first when six people were killed when homes were destroyed. 

Bernetta Graham's newly repaired home once again has holes in it after a trampoline was thrown into her yard.  "It got kind of quiet, and then all of a sudden we just heard a lot of wind, and we heard a loud boom on the house, and then the wind was just whipping and you could hear everything, it was just going," she said.

Other neighbors had their clothing lines ripped down, basketball hoops uprooted and swing sets damaged in this morning's severe weather.