Roof of historic church caves in after storm

February 4, 2011 3:19:31 PM PST
Three days after the "Blizzard of 2011" there is a new concern.

The storm caused the roof of a historic church to collapse. Now, other businesses are taking precautions to make sure their roofs have not been weakened.

No one was hurt when the roof of the First Baptist Congregational Church, 1613 W. Washington, caved in.

At this point, investigators are looking at strong winds as the cause of collapse.

When Chicago got a lot of snow -- as it did Tuesday -- there's always a concern -- Can the roofs over our heads support the added weight?

One benefit of the biting wind Tuesday was that it kept the snow blowing off a lot of rooftops. But the wind was also powerful enough to move heavy limestone.

Mother nature punched a hole in the roof of the First Baptist Congregational Church. A big hole. The blizzard wind gusts of 60 to 70 miles an hour collapsed a spire sending heavy limestone blocks crashing through the sanctuary roof.

"It hit the old structure that's 147 years old. Perhaps the mortar on the tower was weak and blew it over," said Rev. George Daniels, First Baptist Congregational Church of Chicago.

Some of the roof wound up sitting in the balcony, and some of the limestone blocks -- a few of which weigh 2,000 pounds -- wound up falling to Ashland and a courtyard below.

Damage will be in the tens of thousands of dollars, but the hole will be fixed.

This is, after all, a church that survived the Chicago Fire, a church that hosted Martin Luther King, and a church that's a national historic landmark.

"I feel sad and happy. Sad that it happened. Happy that no one was here," said Rev. Daniels.

In the church's case, the wind may have been the devil, but for many flat roof buildings, like a Wal-Mart in far north suburban Antioch, the weight of the snow presented concerns. The store closed, and workers went about the business of removing over a foot of snow from the roof.