Lightning strike damages Lincoln church

ALLOUEZ —They say lightning doesn’t strike twice. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration points out that this is not true and that strikes often happen in the same spot — especially if that spot is tall and acts as “a faint channel upward that joins the downward developing flash.”

Dustin Everard points to marks left by lightning on the steeple of St. Peter Church in Lincoln. (Submitted photo | For The Compass)

That’s exactly what happened on Aug. 27 at St. Peter Church in Lincoln in Kewaunee County. Sunday was the parish’s (St. Peter-St. Hubert Parish in Rosiere/Lincoln) annual Kermis. For years, St. Peter’s has been the first parish in Kewaunee County to have a Kermis (Belgian fall celebration), always on the last Sunday of August.

Toward the end of the event, a storm came up. Fr. Edward Looney, pastor, was one of about three dozen people who sought shelter under a nearby tent to wait out the downpour.

“All of a sudden,” Fr. Looney told The Compass, “there was a large boom and bright light. Many of us were startled and jumped quite a distance.”

Lightning had struck the steeple of the 134-year-old church building, spraying bricks into the cemetery and causing damage inside.

“There are burn marks in various areas on the exterior of our church from the strike,” explained Fr. Looney. “In one place (inside), an emergency exit sign was blown out of the wall, including not only the sign, but plaster and wood.”

“Had it been a little earlier in the day and we were all outside,’ he added, “there could have been a lot of injuries. …. So we really avoided a tragedy.”

Fr. Looney said parish members first thought there was major electrical damage, but further assessment later in the week showed that the main wiring spears to be undamaged. He said the sound system — recently added — was damaged, as well as the electric chair life. Since there is also no electricity in the garage, there is concern about underground wiring there. Cost of repairs is not yet tallied.

About a month ago, on July 23, another weekend storm blew a large tree into the front of St. Peter’s Church and broke the stained glass window over the main door.

“Sunday morning, I received a phone call at about 7 a.m., telling me that … we needed to hold Mass in Rosiere (St. Hubert) that morning,” Fr. Looney recalled.

He said the estimates to repair the window range from $8,000 to $20,000.

As for lightning striking twice, the present church at Lincoln was built to replace an earlier church built in 1857. It was struck by lightning in 1882 and burned down.