Possible tornado destroys Catholic parish hall

By Al Showers - bio | email

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Mother Nature left her mark on the White Cypress Lakes community Friday morning. But no where was the storm's fury easier to see than at St. Matthew Catholic Church.

"It was devastating to say the least," Father Noel Fannon said. "The parish hall took a direct hit. The entire end of the parish hall was demolished completely. It completely peeled off the roof."

Father Noel Fannon is sure it had to be a tornado that touched down just feet from his house.

"I was watching Mike Reader on WLOX, the power went off, but I happened to have a portable TV. And just about 1:30, the noise was just unreal. It was like a freight train passing by. The rectory shook, so I dived for the bathroom."

Within three to five minutes, Father Fannon said the noise stopped.

"It was a scary feeling. I prayed quite a bit, no doubt about it."

The parish hall sustained extensive damage. The office, kitchen and a classroom were destroyed.

"That steel, as you can see, it just bent it like it was just a pencil. So the force of the tornado was just awesome."

Ashleigh Spiers's bridal shower was supposed to be held at the parish hall Sunday.

"I think we're still going to go through with it, with the shower. They're getting a white tent to put up here," Spier said. "This hall is very special to me. I went to church here, my parents were married here. My mom actually died four weeks ago, so its just been bad lately. But we're still going to do it here because it's a special place to me."

Just up the road the storm gave the Shaw family a scare.

"We proceeded to get our children and got into the hallway," Tad Shaw said. "By that time, things were hitting the house and it was a really scary moment. So we set there and waited it out. No telling how many Hail Mary's we said."

After things calmed down, Shaw surveyed the damage.

"I thank God. It was so close to my house, no doubt in my mind it was divine intervention. Too close for comfort."

Church officials say they hope to have the building back up within a couple of months.

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