There were about 150 people, including youth groups, inside the First Baptist Church of Union Wednesday night when high-speed winds blew through the area.
John Hymer, a member of the church, said both the church’s AWANA program and youth groups were meeting when the roof was blown off the building and insulation scattered across the area.
“It came pretty quick from when we first heard it happening,” he said. “Some of the kids were scared — the lights went out and we could hear the wind and glass breaking.”
Hymer said he and his wife were assisting with the AWANA children on the main level of the church that night, and adults ushered the children into a safe area of the church.
There were children from fourth to sixth grade at the church, as well as junior high and high school aged students.
“We took everybody down to the bottom floor, stairwells and into a safe room,” Hymer added. “We went to classrooms and got everyone there in nice, calm orderly fashion.”
According to the National Weather Service, it was a microburst that hit the church, located at Highway 50 and Highway 47 north, before 8 p.m.
The estimated wind speed was 70 miles per hour.
Most of the metal roof was peeled from the attached-brick building and insulation was thrown downward toward the intersection of East Main Street and Highway 47, the NWS reported,
There also were small trees snapped off and damage to church roof shingles. There was insulation and other debris blown into the Walgreens parking lot and drive through.
Everyone in the church had gotten downstairs when the roof was damaged.
“It was definitely God watching over us and caring for us,” Hymer said. “It was no sooner that we got everyone to safety that it got dangerous.”
Much of the storm’s impact was in the upper level of the church.
“The roof of the educational building was pulled back and there was insulation everywhere,” he added. “There was at least one window broken out.” He noted that there were two groups of children and adults who took cover because some were in the gym of the church when the storm hit.
A few children were anxious because they were separated from their siblings, but once everyone was safe the groups contacted each other by cellphone, Hymer said.
Once a Union Fire Protection District crew arrived on the scene, everyone was directed into the gym.
“We were following their lead for a while,” said Hymer. “We had power lines down and they wanted to make sure we were safe.”
He added that it is unlikely that there will be Sunday school this week, but there will be worship services.
There also was damage to the First Baptist Church in Sullivan Wednesday night. That building also was occupied, but there were no injuries.