The buzz of chain saws mingled with prayer Tuesday at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia as crews removed a tree limb that smashed at least a half-dozen markers in the adjoining historic cemetery.
Cutting up the massive arm of a live oak that fell in Monday afternoon’s storm was a “very delicate” operation, said Jim Sims, a congregation member who oversees grounds upkeep at the four-acre church complex downtown.
The tree, in a visible spot at the north edge of the church graveyard near Gervais and Sumter streets, is the “most significant” tree in the area, Sims said.
The limb — estimated to weigh 20,000 pounds — fell amid rain and wind, as the three steel cables holding it in place snapped, officials said.
Crews brought in a crane to help lift the branch, which arched over the iron fence around the complex. Workers hoped to finish cutting up the tree by late Tuesday afternoon.
It was the second sizable branch to fall since July onto graves in the cemetery, where several political leaders and members of prominent families are buried. More than 900 graves are there.
The markers damaged in the latest incident are in an area of graves mostly from the late 1800s.
The church sits across from the State House. It is often used for services connected with gubernatorial inaugurations.
As before, Trinity leaders plan to replace and repair broken gravestones. That promises to be expensive since some are marble, Sims said.
Despite the latest round of damage, there’s no talk of getting rid of a tree thought to be as old as the 200-year-old church and cemetery that one of Sims’ ancestors help found.
The tree “still is in good shape” and able to sprout new growth, he said.
It’s accepted that trees that old “become brittle” amid their beauty, said state Senate president pro tem John Courson, a Columbia Republican who is a member of the congregation.
Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.