Church hall, residential garage roofs collapse in Severn

February 10, 2010|By Andrea F. Siegel | Baltimore Sun reporter

The roof of the fellowship hall of Calvary Chapel International Worship Center in Severn collapsed Wednesday afternoon, most likely from the weight of the snow, Anne Arundel County fire officials said.

There were no injuries, said Battalion Chief Steve Thompson.

"We have a school in there," said Pastor Shawn Murphy, who said the congregation and school families are blessed that no one was inside. "We did have a couple of classrooms in there, and I'm told that two of our classrooms collapsed also."

The structure, a large hall of about 60 feet by 100 feet, is a multipurpose area, and is home to the church's 90-student school, Calvary Chapel Christian Academy, which run from kindergarten through 12th grade, he said. Students eat lunch in the fellowship hall, he said.

Because school is closed due to snow through Friday and closed on Monday for President's Day, school and church officials have several days to make contingency plans for the school, the Rev. Murphy said.

He called the collapse of the structure built in 1986 "a challenge for our congregation," and said "The church family will come together. It's not the hard time that hit you, it's how you respond to those hard times."

He was emailing church members to tell them about the roof collapse and offer a comforting message of faith, "The Bible tells us all things work together for the good," he said.

He did not expect to have more information until after county building inspectors visit the site, which could be as early as Thursday.

The collapse was called in at 1:33 p.m. by someone who lives nearby. The roof is slightly pitched, coming to a peak in the center, Thompson said.

The church's food ministry and housing counseling programs will continue to operate from a separate building and a trailer on the property respectively, he said.

Calvary Chapel describes itself on its Web site as "a New Testament Church recognizing the 5-fold ministry gifts in operation. We have a vision to build, as Nehemiah did, a church within whose walls Reconciliation, Restoration, and Revival will take place!"

It was the second roof in Severn to collapse Wednesday. Shortly before 10 a.m., the roof of a garage in the 1400 block of Evergreen Road fell in, Thompson said.

The structure was a detached two-car garage with an empty apartment over it, he said.

"It had a peaked roof, which was unusual," Thompson said.

Two days earlier, he said, awnings at businesses in Deale and Glen Burnie collapsed under the weight of the snow.

Thompson said residents should try to keep drains clear and downspouts open to allow water from roofs to run off. However, fire officials don't want people climbing on rooftops or risking falls.

Officials have been warning of the potential for collapses of roofs — especially flat or nearly flat ones — due to heavy snow. On Tuesday, Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold cautioned residents with flat roofs to try to clear snow from them if they could do so safely and make sure drains are clear so prevent water from pooling on rooftops.

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