Members in Florida Brace for Irma while Puerto Rico Recovers from Massive Storm

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 8 September 2017


Matthew Davis is a South Carolina native and a Miami resident—so he’s a seasoned veteran of hurricane prep.

The leader of the Miami Florida Stake was darting about his home and neighborhood Friday morning taking care of a few final chores prior to Hurricane Irma’s expected—yet entirely unwanted—arrival.

“We’re doing pretty good,” said President Davis, who lives in the El Portal neighborhood near downtown Miami. “Many of our members have evacuated, and those of us who are staying are helping each other get ready.

“This is a really big storm; we just don’t know what to expect.”

One of President Davis’s counterparts up the coastline, Fort Lauderdale Florida Stake President Scott H. Richards, said some in his stake living in mandatory evacuation neighborhoods have already left their homes.

“And everybody is busy preparing,” he reported.

Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, a local LDS leader said he’s relieved Hurricane Irma has already blown past his island. The densely populated U.S. territory did not suffer damage to the extent witnessed in other Caribbean regions.

“We are very lucky; it could have been much worse,” said San Juan Puerto Rico Stake President Wilfred Rosa on Friday. “So far, we’re doing pretty well, but about 70 percent of Puerto Rico is still without power or running water.”

Cell phone coverage has also been spotty at times, he added. All the Church buildings in his stake escaped any significant damage.

Latter-day Saint leaders in both Florida and Puerto Rico agree Irma is uniting folks of all backgrounds.

“If there is any blessing to all this, it’s that people are coming together,” said President Davis, who presides over a metropolitan area that includes a rich mixture of Haitian and Spanish-speaking residents. “The members have been taking each other into their homes.”

Others are performing various acts of kindness, including shuttling evacuating members and other visitors to the airports. One Latter-day Saint has purchased several airline tickets for people who have chosen to leave the Miami area.

“People are [united] with a common purpose,” said President Richards.

Facebook and other forms of social media are proving key resources to members of the Church preparing for Hurricane Irma. The Miami Lakes Florida Stake, for example, has posted multiple hurricane/disaster prep pages in recent days to help families and local units stay safe, sheltered, fed, and connected.

LDS leaders in Florida are also doing what they can to prepare Church-owned buildings for Irma’s expected high winds and rainfall. President Davis dispatched several members to the Miami Florida Stake Center to install hurricane shutters on doors and windows.

Meanwhile, missionaries in hurricane-vulnerable areas have received instruction to be prepared with food, water, and other provisions. The missionaries have or will be moved to secure areas outside their residences, as needed.

Jesus and Nancy Munoz have spent the past couple of days shuttering up their own Miami Lakes home. They’ve stocked up on nonperishable food and charcoal for cooking outdoors if or when power is lost.

Items such as drinking water and gasoline are in high demand.

“At one local store they would only let people buy a single case of bottled water,” said Jesus.

Miami residents learned many lessons from 1992’s massively destructive Hurricane Andrew, he added. Many homes, hotels, and other businesses are equipped with generators and hurricane-proof building items.

Several of Jesus and Nancy’s fellow ward members live in mobile homes. Many of them have already settled into area shelters.

“And many others have been helping some of the older folks with transportation and other needed things,” he said.

Latter-day Saints living along Irma’s path are already anticipating the post-storm clean up.

President Rosa said his stake would be mobilizing work crews this weekend to help clean up streets and yards littered with fallen trees.

President Richards, meanwhile, said his Fort Lauderdale stake has helped out several other congregations in the region following past natural disasters.

“It looks like this might be our turn to get some help,” he said.