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Enquirer photo/Dan Busey Blake Clinger, center, works with others from Servpro Restoration Services to clean up debris at Shoal Creek Baptist Church Monday after lightning struck the steeple the day before, causing a fire.

Lightning causes church fire at time Easter worshippers normally would have lingered

By Matthew Speakman  

For the Enquirer 

A lightning strike and fire April 12 at a Priceville church occurred at a time Easter worshippers normally would have lingered in the sanctuary, but the building was empty because of coronavirus restrictions. 

“Had it not been for the virus, it could have been a lot worse,” said Shoal Creek Baptist Church pastor Mahlon LeCroix 

Lightning struck the steeple of the church at 12:10 p.m., leading to a structure fire that caused damage to the roof and attic of the church. The strike destroyed the steeple and caused a hole in the roof. Rain poured into the hole and caused water damage to the sanctuary of the church. 

“It will be an Easter we won’t forget,” LeCroix said. “We’re just pushing through and persevering.” 

The church had the most serious damage reported in Morgan, Limestone and Lawrence counties from severe weather Sunday that caused widespread damage and more than 30 deaths in other parts of the South.  

Firefighters from Priceville and Somerville fire departments arrived at the church at 12:18 p.m. 

LeCroix said the church held a drive-through sunrise Easter service at 6:30 a.m. at the nearby Morgan County Celebration Arena, and worshippers listened on their vehicle radios. The church also had a pre-recorded Easter service for its members to view at their convenience at home while complying with the state stay-at-home order. 

Members of Servpro Restoration Services cleared out debris Monday afternoon. An estimate for the cost of repairs to the church was not available. 

LeCroix said the church will continue online services for now. If the stay-at-home order is lifted, the congregation will either continue to worship online or hold services in a part of the church building that was unaffected by the damage. 

“We will definitely figure something out,” LeCroix said. “I’ll preach on plywood if I have to.” 

The Easter storms caused even more damage in other areas of north Alabama. 

The National Weather Service confirmed three tornadoes in north Alabama – in Cullman, Boaz and Flat Rock. DeKalb, Cullman, Marshall and Jackson counties were hit the hardest in the northern portion of the state. 

DeKalb County received the highest rainfall measurement in north Alabama at 6.7 inches, according to a graphic by the National Weather Service. 

Morgan, Lawrence and Limestone counties mostly dealt with localized flooding and trees collapsing in isolated areas, according to the weather service office in Huntsville. 

Eddie Hicks of the Morgan County EMA said nearly 20 trees were down in the county. He said a few homes and trailers sustained water damage. 

“It was sporadic for the most part,” Hicks said. 

South-central Morgan County received the most rain in the area at 5.2 inches. Rainfall in the three counties varied from 35 inches. 

Lawrence County experienced localized flooding and had about six downed trees that temporarily blocked roads. Limestone County also reported trees falling and sporadic flooding, while residents near Ardmore lost power. 

“We mostly just had trees down around the county,” Limestone County EMA director Rita White said. 

Power had been restored to all parts of the county by Monday morning. 


Enquirer photo/Dan Busey
Blake Reed, left, and Blake Clinger of Servpro Restoration Services work to divide the damaged steeple at Shoal Creek Baptist Church after lightning struck the steeple April 12.