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Church roofs collapse under mounds of snow

Two churches within a 5-mile radius had a part of their roof collapse this past week -- both due to snow that had piled too high for too long.

In both cases, damage came to the more more modern building (both were built around 1980), while the traditional sanctuaries went unharmed. No one was injured in either incident.

Most recently, at around 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday Feb. 16, the roof of the First Baptist Church of Memphis, 6425 Bennetts Corners Road, caved in. About 40 people were at worship service in the building when it started to go, said Jon Lippert, a longtime member of the church. The actual collapse didn't occur until 20 minutes after everyone had vacated the building.

Lippert helped build the church in 1981. He said seeing the roof fall was an emotional experience.

"We spent a lot of hours down here in that building," he said. "In fact, my daughter's [Penny Voegele] was the first wedding in the new church and [my son] Russ's was the second."

The church was built onto the front of an 1897 two-room schoolhouse, whose roof remained completely intact. Services were not halted by the damage, as the church met for worship Sunday in its former sanctuary, which had been for set up as a recreational hall.

Church officials said all costs to repair the roof would be covered by insurance.

Two days before, at around 12:45 p.m., the center section of the parish hall roof at St. Luke's Ukrainian Church roof caved in.

Peter Tymchenko, the church's vice president, said three feet of snow had piled up on the hall's roof leading to the collapse. Monday night's bitter cold conditions, following the roof's collapse, caused the water heating pipes to freeze and leak.

Tymchenko expects total damages to be covered by insurance.

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