POSTED March 3
COLUMBUS, Ga. (BP)–Late Thursday evening leaders called off a Young Life meeting because of strong winds and heavy rains. Thirty minutes later a tornado hit the building where the group was to meet. It exploded, with half the building disintegrating and the other half flung across the campus of Wynnwood Baptist Church in Columbus.
“We were to have 100 youth in our building that we call ‘The Lodge.’ It could have been a tragedy,” said Brad Hicks, senior pastor at Wynnwood Church. “We are grateful to God that everyone was out of that building.”
Several buildings at the Wynnwood campus had extensive damage, although none to the extent of the lodge. The church backs up to a subdivision that also suffered extensive damage.
“Most of the homes lost the entire top floor,” Hicks said.
Wynnwood had roof damage and water damage in all their buildings. Two buses, just recently purchased by the church, were flipped and rolled during the violent storm system.
Columbus was one of five Georgia counties declared a state of emergency on Saturday by Governor Sonny Perdue.
About a mile from Wynnwood Church, Calvary Baptist Church is also assessing the damage from the storm.
The Calvary Baptist Church complex sits on more than 50 acres and has buildings that house a school, independent living facility, an assisted living facility, a counseling center and a soon-to-be opened Alzheimer’s unit, along with the church sanctuary and educational building.
“We’re developing plan A, plan B and plan C,” said Don Wilhite, senior pastor at Calvary. “It’s a mess, an absolute mess. The more we look, the more we realize this is not an inconvenience, it’s a major disaster.”
The homes for the elderly had the least amount of damage and no injuries were reported. The church and school, which both sit on a hill, had the most extensive damage.
Walls separated from buildings, roofs were torn off, windows shattered and one building was completely destroyed. Water damage affected most of the buildings.
“In spite of all the chaos and damage, we are blessed. The storm came at 6:30, not at 3:30. It came on Thursday, not on Wednesday. It could have been much worse,” Wilhite said.
The church will have worship services in the gym on Sunday.
“We’re going to celebrate and thank God that something is standing and no one was hurt,” Wilhite said.