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Winds of perhaps 100 miles an hour snap Salina church steeple

The wind was blowing so hard with the thunderstorm that blasted Salina Monday morning that hail stones skidded sideways across the windows of the First Southern Baptist Church at Ohio and Magnolia.

"The hail was screeching along the window," church secretary Shirley Train said. "At first we thought someone was screaming."

The wind and the hail was so loud no one heard the steeple snap off and stab the roof like a spear shortly after 10:30 a.m. Monday, Train said. The tip of the steeple pierced the sanctuary, protruding perhaps six feet past the ceiling tiles.

"The custodian was checking the doorways for water seepage," Train said. "She came in and said, 'Shirley, I need your help.'"

The damage is blamed on winds unofficially estimated at 100 miles an hour that blew through Salina with a thunderstorm Monday morning.

The National Weather Service's official data collection site at the airport on the south side of Salina recorded maximum sustained winds of 69 knots, or about 80 miles an hour, said Dick Elder, meteorologist in charge of the Wichita NWS office.

"I wouldn't be surprised if there were winds approaching 100 miles per hour" in that storm, he said.

Perhaps 15 feet of the five-year-old steeple was snapped off, Train said. It is hollow, so it was serving as a large spout funneling water into the sanctuary.

The sound of dripping water drew the custodian to the sanctuary, where she spotted the damage, Train said. The good news is the unlikely spear missed wiring and sprinkler systems, so repairs should be pretty straightforward.

"It came through the structure in just the right way," Train said. "I think everything will go on as usual…we'll just carry on."