The early March nor’easter caused damage all across Hatteras
and Ocracoke islands, but in the town of Rodanthe, one of the storm’s local
impacts was impossible to miss.
After the waters and winds subsided, islanders noticed that
the steeple at the Fair Haven United Methodist Church (UMC) - a local landmark
on the oceanside of N.C. Highway 12 - had completely toppled over due to the
Roof repairs associated with the damage were made
immediately after the storm subsided, but the steeple itself, which measures
about 24 foot high, presents a bit of a larger challenge. It has since been
removed from is precarious position on the roof and set on the ground, but the
next step is putting everything back together again.
“There are a couple challenges with placing the steeple
back,” said Administrative Council Chairman for Fair Haven UMC, Jonna O'Neal
Midgette. “For one thing, it’s going to take a crane, a carpenter with
knowledge on what to do, and time. With spring projects coming up, and other storm
damage projects on the island, it’s not that easy to get someone who has both availability
The Fair Haven United Methodist Church stands out on the
island for a number of reason.
Its spot in the heart of Rodanthe is unique, as it is a
distinctive structure in a crowd of vacation rental homes close to the ocean.
But the church itself has been standing there for decades, and the congregation
has been along much longer than that.
The church was placed on the site around 1946, after the devastating
storm of 1944. Prior to its current locale, the church was located on the
soundside, in the vicinity of the former Waterfall Park, and almost directly
across from where it sits now.
“There was even a little bridge where the bike path is now,
and kids from the north side and the south side of the village would join on
the bridge and walk to church together,” said Jonna.
After the 1944 storm, a plot of land was donated by an
original north Rodanthe resident and developer, Theodore Meekins, and the
church has remained in the same spot ever since.
Extensive renovations took place around 1965, and again in
the 1970s, and it’s not entirely clear when the steeple was added to the
structure. What is known, however, is that it survived 2011’s Hurricane Irene
when the rest of the church was surrounded by six feet of tide.
So what was it about this March nor’easter that toppled the
steeple when it had already survived a number of storms that had come before?
As it turns out, there were a few structural problems already in play. The
steeple sat on wood that was not salt treated, and two of the few bolts that
held it in place were rotted.
“So when a good wind came, that did the steeple in,” said
And what a wind it was! With gusts peeking at around 50-60
mph across the island, and remaining strong for the duration of the first
weekend in March, the steeple simply unrooted.
Folks at the church are expecting three bids on the project
within the next several weeks, and they are looking into hosting dinners and silent
auctions in the near future to help with the project.
People who want to
help with the project can also make a donation via the following address:
Acting Treasurer: Polly Moffet
Fair Haven UMC
P.O. BOX 206, RODANTHE, NC 27968 (with memo "steeple repair")
In the meantime, the roof and shingles have been repaired
and are protected from water damage, as the steeple waits to regain its
rightful place on the top of the historic church.
“My grandfather always said that with March, you just never
know [what the weather will bring], and that is very true,” said Jonna, “but
we’re hoping to get it fixed very soon.”