The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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May 19, 2000 Issue
Local News

Weathering all that spring storm delivers

Parishes in the diocese sustain damages in last week's storm

By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor

Communities throughout the Green Bay Diocese continue cleanup efforts following last Friday's severe weather, which produced 100 mile per hour winds and baseball-sized hail in some areas. Several Catholic churches and schools in the diocese suffered various degrees of damage.

St. Nazianz, a small community in Manitowoc County and home to St. Gregory Nazianz Parish, suffered the most destruction from downdraft thunderstorm winds. The church steeple was torn and the roof was severely damaged and must be replaced. The church dates back to 1868. St. Gregory School escaped with broken windows and water damage on the upper floor classrooms and debris on the exterior. Several homes and businesses were damaged and many mobile homes were completely destroyed.

"We received the warning from the Emergency Government Monitor and acted quickly," said Jane Schaller, school secretary. "Three weeks ago we had a tornado drill, so the children were prepared and calm. Everyone was in the right place. The power went out, which was scary, but we had flashlights. We heard the storm hit."

The first floor of the school is underground providing a safe refuge for the students and staff. Some parents arrived at the school hoping to remove their children, but the staff, to ensure safety, would not allow any of the students to leave. After the storm passed, because of fallen power lines and gas leaks in the community, St. Gregory students were transported by ambulance to Valders for parent pickup. Valders school buses were out of commission from the storm.

"We consider ourselves lucky considering the devastation in the community," said Schaller. "I know of one student who lives only a short distance from the school where the home was totally destroyed."

More than 1,000 volunteers provided cleanup assistance in St. Nazianz over the weekend. The village is looking better each day, said Schaller.

"There are so many trees down that we can now see things we couldn't see before," she said. "Everyone has been so supportive. The Bishop was here on Saturday afternoon, which was wonderful." (See Bp. Banks' Corner, pg. 2)

"I have an 83-year-old neighbor who told me this was the worst storm she had seen," said Schaller. "I'm just thankful everybody was safe."

St. Gregory School was used as a Red Cross shelter until Tuesday when classes resumed.

Hail, not wind, was the source of destruction in Chilton.

Pat Levknecht, principal at Chilton Catholic School, was subbing in the third grade classroom when she received emergency notification. Chilton was struck by large hail from the storm. Students from the school were ushered through the underground tunnel that connects the school to the cafeteria in the St. Mary Church basement.

"The sixth grade class was on the way over when the storm hit," said Levnecht. "When the power went out, some of the children began to cry. We worked on calming them down. We could hear the hail hitting."

Students were forced to eat lunch in the dark. After the storm passed, staff members performed songs for the kids and prayed.

"We had moments of silence," said Levnecht. "The teachers had prepared emergency packets with activity folders for the students. I did head checks on the hour to make sure all the students were safe. We had a system for an emergency, but you never think you are going to have to use it. I am thankful we were prepared."

Buses ran as normal in Chilton. Hail ripped apart two layers of glass and screens on the west side of the upper level of the school. Other damage included flooding and cracked windows on the north side.

The stained glass windows on one side of St. Martin Church in nearby Charlestown were destroyed by hail. Sacristy windows were also damaged.

"It was quite scary," said Levnecht. "Parents volunteered on Saturday to clean up. Everyone is pulling together."

Window damage at Silver Lake College, Manitowoc, was also reported.

Before coming across Lake Winnebago, the storm hit Winnebago County where hail broke windows at St. Mary Church in Omro. Damage would have been much worse if the church faced north or south instead of east and west, said John Nelson, diocesan director of real estate.

The storm originated in the Redgranite area. Seven windows and one skylight were broken at St. Mark Church. Fr. Ray Conard, pastor, also reported broken shingles, dented siding and damage to the downspouts.

"The hail was the size of tennis balls," said Fr. Conard. "I have never seen a storm like this here. I had only witnessed storms this severe in the Dominican Republic."

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