Local

Tornado hits Washington County church, damages roof while 100 people are inside

UNION TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Parishioners inside a Washington County church had a shake-up after a tornado lifted the roof of the building while they were in service.

Click here for photos of damage left behind by the tornado and severe thunderstorms that happened in the surrounding area.

The National Weather Service said a tornado passed through Union Township from 6:05 p.m. until 6:15 p.m.

While it was in the area, Washington County officials say it hit a church.

Pastor Ken Barner said about 100 people, including babies, were inside at the time.

“I go out and I see debris flying all over the auditorium, so I immediately tell everybody to go down into the basement,” he said.

The pastor’s wife, Rhonda, who is the worship leader at Crossroads Ministries, was singing on stage, mid-song, when she heard the noise.

“I saw the lights were flickering and I saw they went out,” Rhonda Barner said. “I thought I heard the windows start to shatter, and then the sound was like a train coming through and more windows were shattering.”

The pastor said powerful winds ripped the roof off the office building that’s connected to the church. The tornado then took out the steeple, throwing it about 50 feet into the parking lot, crushing cars.

The pastor said it was a miracle no one was seriously hurt.

“There’s no way we should be here,” Ken Barner said. “God was with us. I explained to our people that God’s promise is to take care of his people and today we believe that God did that.”

About a half a mile away on Gayle Drive, neighbors were all pitching in to help clean up after a tree in front of a home was pulled out of the ground.

Dina Lorenzi’s 77-year-old parents were inside the home. She drove over to check on them.

“I was freaking out on my way over here,” Lorenzi said. “I heard real strong winds at my house a half a mile away.”

The tornado also tore off part of the home’s porch, sending it flying several feet across the street.

“I didn’t even notice it yet,” said Lorenzi. “I just seen this, and my parents are 77. It’s really scary.”

No one was hurt on that street either.

Pastor Ken said services would not be held in person on Sunday. Streams will be held on Facebook at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.

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