CHERRY CORNER — The Rev. Shawn Haynes had no reason to think that something was going wrong late Sunday afternoon as a thunderstorm approached Calloway County from the west.
From where he resides, near Kirksey in the northwestern part of the county, nothing of consequence did happen. However, shortly after 6 p.m., he received a phone call from one of his deacons at Cherry Corner Baptist Church, which is located southeast of Murray and where he serves as pastor.
Something had gone wrong. The thunderstorm gained strength, even reaching severe limits, as it moved past Murray, and by the time it moved into the Cherry Corner community, it was powerful enough to knock down several trees, leave several homes without power and just for good measure, remove the steeple from the top of the church.
“I headed out here,” Haynes said Monday afternoon as he and others tended to the inside of the church, which received water damage on carpets and furniture when the steeple punctured the roof. This allowed heavy rains that fell behind the storm to inundate the inside of the structure.
“The steeple has a heavy steel cross at the top of it and, when it went down, it basically shot through the roof and got stuck. Otherwise, it would’ve rolled all the way off and to the ground. It could’ve been worse.”
Indeed it could have been much worse. Along with the metal steeple, a portion of the wooden base also was removed by the winds and it did tumble to the parking lot, smashing into many pieces upon impact.
Cherry Corner was not having evening services on Sundays so no one was at the church.
“That base could’ve come down on top of a car or a person, and when all this was happening it was about 6 o’clock. That’s the time we would’ve been having our evening service, so we were blessed there,” Haynes said.
The storm was a surprise to local observers. Justin Holland of Murray, an official government observer with the National Weather Service Office in Paducah, said it was part of a line of storms that moved across the Purchase Area. He said that, as it approached Calloway County, it was below severe limits, and remained that way as it moved into Murray.
“Then it just kind of exploded on the other side of Murray,” Holland said, noting that the NWS was able to issue a severe thunderstorm warning at about 5:45 for the eastern part of the county. “They saw something in that storm that made them think they needed to do something. They did a good job with this storm.
“We had been in a marginal risk for severe thunderstorms all day, so the potential was there. But we didn’t have a watch and the line that moved through was non-severe up to the time it was past Murray, so there was not much time for the weather service to get that warning out.”
Meanwhile, the surprise storm meant a dinner delay for Calloway County Fire-Rescue Chief Tommy Morgan. In fact, he said he and wife Amanda were in the process of heading to a Murray establishment for carry out when his radio became very active.
Trees were reported down in numerous places, including Dodd Road, which was one of his first stops. There, a tree had fallen onto a house.
“I wan’t there long, though. I could see that everyone was OK and the damage didn’t seem too bad,” he said, describing the tree as an 18-inch-wide hickory that had dislodged the house’s gutters.
Morgan said CCFR remained on tree duty through about 9:30 p.m. He said the majority of those calls were for trees across roads, which required chainsaws to remove. He did say that one call was a little more worrisome than the others and this came with a report that neighbors were attempting to remove a tree entangled in power lines, while using a combination of chainsaws and chains pulled by pickup trucks.
“People look at that and think, ‘A line is down, the power is out.’ A line falling doesn’t kill the power,” he said, noting that CCFR personnel immediately responded to stop the activity so crews from West Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation could reach the site and handle the problem.
“What you’ve got to watch out for is that those lines are backfed. Let’s say you have houses out in the county that have generators, which not all of them have, but the ones that do can do what’s called backfeeding the power. That means it can come out of the house toward the road and it will have twice the voltage. It’s a big gamble to try to do something with that.”
No injuries were reported. WKRECC said about 220 Calloway customers lost power, some of whom remained without power into Monday.
Meanwhile, back at Cherry Corner, Haynes said a resident of the area came with a construction lift vehicle Sunday evening and helped remove the steeple from the roof. It has now served its time at Cherry Corner and the quest for a new one has started.
“Yeah, I started looking (online) and got some prices. They’re not cheap,” he said. “So we’re going to wait for insurance and see what they say, then we’ll see what happens from there. I imagine we’ll start discussing it as a congregation soon.”