VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — When the remnants of Ian blew through Hampton Roads last week, it toppled the Galilee Church’s steeple in Virginia Beach.
The steeple became wedged between the church and neighboring apartment complex, Holly Hill Apartments, but church leaders say they’re thankful it fell the way it did.
“I was so disappointed to see it, but I was so happy at the same time that no one got hurt, no one died and the way it fell was, I think, a miracle from our perspective,” said Rev. Dr. Andrew Buchanan.
The church tells 10 On Your Side it will take some time before they can fully assess how much damage was done by the storm — or if they’ll replace the steeple.
“We’ll have to think about what we want to do. Do we want to put that back repaired? Do we want to do something else? What’s the right thing to do for the congregation?” Buchanan said.
Buchanan says they had two wedding rehearsals at the church on Friday night, but everyone had gone home before it fell. He says when he got to the church, there were firefighters on the scene.
“I went up in that tower right there and in the top window with the firemen. We were just looking out that window over to the road when we heard this boom and then this fireball came out right behind us. The fireman said, “I’m not comfortable” and I’m like, “You’re not comfortable? I’m not comfortable!”
“At first, I thought maybe a panel had come off because that’s happened before, maybe a few tiles had come off the roof. I didn’t really think the whole steeple had come off,” said Buchanan.
The steeple fell between the church and Holly Hill Apartments. The resident who lives in the closest unit to where the steeple fell didn’t want to go on camera, but told 10 On Your Side it sounded like a train wreck.
“The woman who lives up here, I think she was pretty startled by it,” said Holly Hill Apartment Manager, Dean Rogers.
Rogers says he had already gone home for the night, but came back when he heard the news.
“About 6:30, my phone started ringing and dinging from text messages and phone calls and it was ‘hey, you need to get up here, the steeples fallen off the building, the fire department is here and they’re telling us we have to leave,'” said Rogers.
Rogers said, thankfully, residents didn’t have to evacuate the building.
Rogers says they won’t know how exactly how much damage the fallen steeple caused until it’s moved from its current position. He says so far, he can tell the gutter system is damaged and a few shingles have fallen off too, he but plans to have the building inspected for structural damage just in case.
Both Rogers and Reverend Buchanan say they’re both just thankful no one was hurt.
“I take it as a miracle that between the slate coming off the roof, the steeple coming down, that no one got injured, everyone is safe and there’s minimal structural damage,” said Rev. Buchanan.
Reverand Buchannan is moving the steeple to the back of the church until they figure out what to do next. Crews lifted it early Thursday morning and WAVY’s crew took at a timelapse video.