CATSKILL, N.Y. – A lightning bolt struck the steeple on a former church Wednesday night causing enough damage to force crews to remove the steeple.
The church on Main Street in Catskill has been turned into a 24-hour fitness center. The building was occupied when a lightning bolt struck the steeple.
“All of a sudden there was this extremely loud pop,” witness Susan Friedman said. “My ears are still ringing.”
Friedman described hearing something close to a monsoon followed by a loud crack while working on her computer at her nearby Catskill office.
“The monitor started smoking, and I could see a flash there,” she said.
Friedman said when she stepped outside she saw the steeple of the adjoining former church in shambles.
“When I saw the steeple, it was shocking,” she said. “I mean, to see that it’s only a frame and that nothing is left of it, it’s just mind boggling.”
Catskill Assistant Fire Chief Ed Dolan said about 15 people were inside the gym when the lightning bolt hit, and the heavy rain caused debris from the building to fall on the street.
“Our number one concern was to get the people out and establish a collapse zone upon our arrival due to the unstableness of the structure,” he said.
Dolan said a sweep of the gym revealed everyone was safe, but the steeple was not.
“It’s dangerous enough it has to come down,” he said. “We got a crane coming up to take it down.”
Friedman said she’s thankful that everyone got out safe.
“No injuries and luckily, although my monitor was smoking, it didn’t go on fire,” she said.
Officials are not sure how long it will take to bring down the steeple.