Pillaton Church hit by lightning suffers 'huge hole'

Damage to the Grade I-listed church has estimated to be at least £500,000

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A church has been left with a "huge hole" after being struck by lightning in Cornwall.

Pillaton Church was hit on Monday evening during a "tremendous thunderstorm", bell ringing captain Richard Warwick said.

Severe weather has affected many parts of the county, with drivers reporting treacherous ice on roads.

A number of schools were closed because many roads and pavements had been considered too dangerous.

'Exploding' pinnacle

Mr Warwick said Pillaton residents had been "shaken from their beds" during Monday's storm, which caused "pretty major structural damage" to the Grade I-listed St Odulph church.

"One of the four pinnacles on the roof, which weigh several tonnes, has exploded and the main part of it has made a huge gaping hole in the body of the main church," he said.

Lightning strike sign Damage to the church has been estimated to be at least £500,000

"We don't know about the bells yet because we're not allowed up there to take a look.

"The main tower looks all right but we've just had them re-furnished for £50,000, so it's a bit of a worry."

Bell-ringer and church keyholder David Shawcross said it was a scene of "utter devastation" and "looked like a bomb had gone off."

Church warden Richard Lowther said everything in the church had been affected, including the roof, pews and other furnishings.

He said: "We won't be able to hold services until ... I don't know how long.

"We estimate the damage will be in excess of £500,000, at a very minimum, to repair."

He said the first work to be carried out would be to prevent water getting into the building and causing further damage.

Snow in Cornwall, January 2013 Parts of west Cornwall had up to 4cm (1.5ins) of snow on Monday

Fourteen schools were closed and nine opened late.

Teresa Clinic, who works at both St Cleer and Blisland schools, said staff had to take driving conditions into consideration when making such decisions.

She said: "We need to be cautious health and safety-wise.

"If it's looking difficult for parents, the last thing we would want is people trying to get to school and ending up being in accidents on the road or causing an accident."

Snow warning

County Highways gritters were out three times on Tuesday morning, and in the afternoon, managers said.

All 25 of Cornwall's gritters would be going out during the evening.

The Met Office issued a yellow warning of ice for the county.

It also warned that snow could fall across Cornwall later although the "extent of the wintry precipitation is very uncertain at this stage".

Devon is expected to have the heaviest snow - with up to 10cm (4ins) on high ground.

Up to 4cm (1.5ins) of snow fell across parts of west Cornwall on Monday.

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