Clark County church, cemeteries damaged by tornado; cleanup continues

New Beginnings pastor says call about damage was ‘nothing good to wake up to.’

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

A 141-year-old church building and two cemeteries — one each in Harmony Twp. and Springfield Twp. — were among the properties damaged by Wednesday’s tornado, and cleanup and repair work continued Friday at all three sites.

An EF-2 tornado touched down at 4:52 a.m. on Selma Pike in Springfield Twp., reaching a maximum speed of 130 mph along Ridge Road near State Route 41, according to the National Weather Service. It had a path width of 500 yards and traveled 21.3 miles across eastern Clark County into Madison County, lifting around 5:15 a.m. in a field near London.

Rose Hill Burial Park along Route 41 sustained significant tree damage with many toppled over after the tornado.

The Fletcher Chapel Church building and the neighboring cemetery on Fletcher Chapel Road were extensively damaged by Wednesday’s tornado. It had debris wrapped around the stones, with many that were knocked over by the strong wind.

Jim Farquer, Harmony Twp. road superintendent, said they are just now starting the cleanup process at the 28-acre cemetery.

“(There are) many broken stones everywhere, I couldn’t even tell you how many,” he said. “Broken stones aren’t the priority, it’s getting the driveways open. And pretty much every tree is down … The roof of the church and a barn is in the cemetery (too).”

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

“(It’s) mostly toppled trees, the debris made such a mess, and then an uncountable number of stones. I mean, I don’t even know how’d you know how many have broke,” he said.

Farquer said there are a couple dozen people helping, including the Harmony Twp. trustees and other friends. The sheriff’s office also brought out the Clark County Pride Program inmates to help clean up. Farquer said Pride Program inmates also work for the township during the summer, caring for the cemetery.

Although the cemetery has help cleaning, Farquer said that there is no timeline on how long the work will take.

New Beginnings Fellowship Church, which operates from the Fletcher Chapel Church Building, was heavily damaged by tornado, causing the roof to collapse onto the pews and block the main entrance.

Pastor Larry Moore said he got a call around 5 a.m. from a member who lives around the corner from the church and said the roof had been blown off.

Moore said it was a shock to hear the call and was “nothing good to wake up to.”

“At that time, that’s all the damage I knew about until I came here myself. I went around back and all the bricks (were) off the back, I walked inside and the roof (was) down on the inside, the walls were all cracked, the pews were all broken down,” he said. “Everything that’s within the church that was usable, it was no longer usable because of the damage that had been done.”

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

He added that when a tornado came through a few years ago, it tore off the front part of the roof and they had to replace the whole roof, but this damage is more.

“It’s devastating to see what happened. I don’t see any way of brining it back. This building was built in 1883,” he said. “I can’t even find the roof. I don’t even see any signs of where the roof went. The tornado took it to wherever it ended up, but it’s not here anywhere.”

The tornado happened during early-morning darkness Wednesday and was the strongest one in the county in the last 17 years. The county has had 18 tornadoes touch down in the 2000s, all of them since 2007, according to the NWS.

An EF-2 tornado is considered strong and has significant damage. It includes wind speeds of 111 to 135 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

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