An EF-1 tornado with winds of 105 mph that touched down in the northeast Fayette County community of Belmont and the town of Mason Saturday evening moved a church off its foundation.
Belmont Methodist Church, built in 1941, had been inactive when the twister struck at around 9:13 p.m. Saturday night. The same tornado also destroyed the K-9 Animal Savior Rescue in nearby Mason. A cat and dog died in the tornado and over 125 animals were displaced.
Several tombstones behind Belmont Methodist were possibly damaged from the tornado.
MORE: Tornado destroys Fayette County animal shelter
Volunteers hope to quickly fix up the property the church stands on, to help keep a special tradition going. Services at the church started in the 1800s.
"History is history. You can't change history," said Royce Petty, who lives nearby the church. "A lot of memories in that old building there."
Petty says he attended Belmont Methodist church inside building more than 25 years ago. Now, he works to fix it up. The twister moved the foundation 15 feet, snapped trees, and ripped the entrance's roof.
MORE: EF-2 touches down briefly in Panola County
Debris is strewn all over the property, including a white piece of tin that's from a nearby barn just over a hill.
Belmont Methodist Church no longer holds services, but petty says the building has existed since 1941. Some Fayette families stopped by the property to check on their roots.
"All of my family from both sides are buried out here," Petty said.
The first weekend in May marks an annual celebration of Belmont families who gather to remember those buried here.
John Wilder says the tornado's wrath won't twist that tradition.
"It helps people reconnect with their roots," he said.
Despite the property's exterior damage, the pews, pulpit and panels inside weren't touched. Wilder says this serves as a reminder Of the Man above.
"Might be some divine intervention there," Wilder said.
One person near Belmont and Mason reported a minor injury.
To help with the cleanup effort and make a contribution you can stop by any Citizens Bank in Oakland, Tenn.
The storm system also produced a brief but stronger EF-2 tornado with winds of 112 mph that touched down in the northern Mississippi town of Pope in Panola County.
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