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Wind damages roof of W.Va. church

July 29, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

BUNKER HILL, W.VA. - Strong wind gusts on Thursday night ripped off a large section of the green metal roof of Christ Church, one of Berkeley County's oldest Episcopal houses of worship.

"I am deeply saddened that Christ Church, Bunker Hill, has again been damaged by natural or human disasters," W. Michie Klusmeyer, the Bishop of the Episcopal Church of West Virginia, said Friday after surveying the damage at the church off Runnymeade Road.

"We continue to be committed to restoring it ... our insurance company is fast on track to protect the building from any further damage from its most recent situation," Klusmeyer said.

Thursday night's storm also damaged a roof at Appletown Auction off Henshaw Road, ripped power lines down along Giles Mill Road and toppled trees on Middleway Pike (W.Va. 51), according to Brian Golliday, a firefighter with the South Berkeley Volunteer Fire Co.

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Lightning also struck a home off Ladybug Lane in south Jefferson County, causing fire damage to the attic, Golliday said.

Golliday said he had a hard time believing the wind was able to carry such a large section of Christ Church's roof, along with spouting and timbers, more than 50 yards in the air before landing in a crumpled pile next to tombstones dating to the 1700s. It wasn't immediately clear whether any of the monuments were damaged.

A window over the entrance to the church also was blown out by the wind.

Christ Church was built in 1851 on the site where Episcopalians first gathered in 1740. Col. Morgan Morgan, considered to be the first settler in what now is West Virginia, was credited for establishing the first church, and the current structure is believed to be at least the third to be built on the site, according to Don C. Wood, president of the Berkeley County Historical Society.

In the last 15 years, two fires have damaged the church, and open windows allowed pigeons to wreck the sanctuary with droppings. Vandals also spray painted the inside walls.

Robert Allen Walker arrived at a residence next to the church Friday to finalize arrangements to replace the roof of his home.

Describing the situation as a "strange coincidence," Walker agreed to take on the emergency work of covering the church roof's expansive hole with plastic tarp.

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