Historic Halifax church steeple toppled by powerful wind storm gusts
Part of Barrington Street closed as city officials assess safety risks and consider repair options.
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Heaps of wood and chunks of plaster littered the sidewalk in front of a historic Halifax church on Wednesday, leading the city to shut down a section of Barrington Street.
One of the steeples on the historic St. Matthew's United Church, founded in 1749, crashed to the ground overnight Tuesday due to the high winds that slammed through the province as part of a storm system.
Due to safety concerns, Halifax Regional Police and HRM crews closed off Barrington Street between Spring Garden Road and Bishop Street late Wednesday morning.
Halifax Regional Municipality said the biggest damage currently on their radar since Tuesday’s storm hit is St. Matthew’s United Church.
“That section of Barrington Street has been closed until further notice as crews are assessing further safety risks and looking into repair options,” said HRM spokesperson Nick Ritcey.
He added the closure could be as long as 48 hours.
The church holds regular services and operates as an Out of the Cold Emergency Winter Shelter and soup kitchen for citizens who often have nowhere else to go.
Rev. Betsy Hogan, minister at St. Matthew's United Church, said the damage is part of a worrying trend of powerful storms disrupting her church and the lives of some of the region's poorest citizens.
"We've never had issues like this before,'' she said in an interview.
Residents of the overnight shelter in the Barrington Street church's basement heard the crash and alerted the building administrator in the middle of the night, she said.
The crashed steeple caused damage to the church and nearby sidewalk, causing the church and its emergency shelter to be evacuated.
Hogan said the recurring storms around the region concern her.
"The storms are having much more impact on Nova Scotians' lives,'' she said.
As strong northeasterly winds gusted between 60 to 80 km/h on Wednesday, Halifax Regional Municipality crews were at the Barrington Street church in an effort to stabilize a second vulnerable church steeple swaying against powerful gusts of wind.
"Something has changed that has resulted in not only higher winds and gusts of winds but also in the direction and the complexity of them,” Hogan said.
“It must have to do with climate change.” - with files from The Canadian Press