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MACON, Ga. – Staff at the Northminster Presbyterian Church were hunkered down inside the building Wednesday as strong winds and rain battered the house of worship when they heard a loud crash.
Rev. Ralph Hawkins said they would later learn the sound was an 8,000-pound church steeple toppling over and crashing into the roof.
Hawkins and a colleague were sheltering in the hallway when they heard a loud bang.
"We didn't know what that crash was at first. Only later did we discover that our 8,000-pound steeple had been removed from the tower behind us here, and the wind picked it up and landed it right on the roof," Hawkins said.
The steeple now lays in the parking lot of the Macon church.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency after two intense days of severe storms rolled through the South.
The National Weather Service reported one person was killed during a tornado in Pembroke, Georgia. The tornado is believed to have been an EF-3 with at least 136 mph winds.
Beyond the steeple, Northminster Presbyterian Church also suffered significant damage from wind and rain. The building is still without power as the cleanup begins. Powerlines across the street are down and blocking the road.
Hawkins said despite the damage, he is mercilessly grateful no one was hurt when the steeple came crashing down.
"Steeples can be replaced. Buildings can be fixed. We're certainly mindful of the fact that in the community, particularly to our south, a lot of folks are out of their homes today," Hawkins said.
Damage assessments are still underway across the South.