Cedar Rapids Weather
Parkersburg Church Survives Tornado
By Josh Hinkle, Anchor/Reporter
PARKERSBURG - In the middle of this town's misfortune, some say sits a miracle.
United Methodist Church Pastor Betsy Piette says, "We came in, hard to get the door open, because they were jammed by the wind."
Piette wasn't sure what she would find at the church after the EF5 tornado touched down in Parkersburg.
She says, "The pews were sitting perfectly. All the hymnals were in their place and only one window was broken."
200 mile-per-hour winds tore the roof off the sanctuary and bent one of the metal crosses on the steeple. The force of those winds is even more apparent just a few feet away on the high school baseball field. The church was on the very edge of the tornado. When it touched down, it was about 3/4 of a mile wide.
It demolished the high school, dozens of businesses, plus more than 300 homes. It also killed five residents. That really stuck with parishioners as they greeted one another on the first Sunday since the storm.
Russ Simon says, "I just knew we were all dead, the whole family was dead. but somehow, we came out of it. Whatever we did was right."
His wife Jenee says, "It's just really amazing that we're here. Someone higher up had to be holding on to us or pushing us down."
Pastor Piette is now living with some members of her church family. The tornado tore down her house, as well.
But she believes God prepared her just in time. Just three weeks ago, she had heart problems and low energy, so doctors put in a pacemaker.
"It's almost like the hand of God was there, saying, 'Betsy, I need you to be ready.'"
Church attendance nearly doubled today. She says her guidance is needed now more than ever.
"(We're) sharing together and hearing the words of God, saying, 'I will never leave you. I will be with you always. Anything you need, just ask and I will provide.'"
Miracles and reminders of why she says her church and its members are alive today.
The church will begin its re-roofing tomorrow morning. Next, contractors will begin estimates on rebuilding the parsonage.
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