Storm

High winds damage Barrington Street church

Shelter at St. Matthew's forced to close after winds knock down first steeple

St. Matthew’s United Church on Barrington Street was damaged by high winds this week.   Sam Gillett

Construction crews dismantled a second unsteady steeple from St. Matthew’s United Church in Halifax Thursday morning.

Sixty to 80 km/h winds knocked the left side steeple off the Barrington Street church around 2 a.m. Wednesday, causing damage to a nearby wall and gate and littering the sidewalk with rubble. No injuries were reported.

On Thursday morning, a second steeple that was ready to fall was dismantled. Halifax Regional Police cordoned off Barrington Street around the church until Thursday afternoon.

Rev. Betsy Hogan, St. Matthew’s minister, first heard about problems with the steeples early Wednesday morning from guests of the church’s shelter.

“The immediate reaction is to make sure everyone is out of the building and safe,” Hogan said Wednesday. “Then we wait for the wind to die down and we sort it out.”

She said the cost of repairs will be covered by insurance, but shelter guests were forced to leave the building due to unsafe conditions around the front entrance.

“It takes a lot of energy to manage a crisis. It throws the staff into disarray, it throws the shelter into disarray,” said Hogan. “That’s frustrating and exhausting.”

Hogan said high winds have caused damage before. In December, parts of the roof blew off — a roof that was secure and two years old. She said the Barrington Street “wind tunnel” effect has always been an issue for the church.

Halifax regional council has discussed gusty conditions on Barrington Street before. Now buildings like the Maritime Centre must include podiums that stop wind from blowing down onto the sidewalk.

In February, a design review committee approved a motion allowing for a redesign of the Maritime Centre, partly to lessen windy conditions on the street.

St. Matthew’s was not the only Halifax location affected by the storm, which hit the city Tuesday evening.

The storm wreaked snowy havoc across the Halifax Regional Municipality. Strong winds and snow toppled trees and power lines, cutting electricity to more than 43,000 residents in the Halifax area on Tuesday night.