“Members Help Clean Up after Hurricanes, Floods,” Ensign, Jan. 1997, 74–75
In September, hurricanes hit North Carolina and Puerto Rico, causing severe damage and even some deaths. Local Church leaders and members reacted quickly in both areas to provide assistance in whatever ways were necessary.
On Thursday, 5 September, Hurricane Fran hit near Wilmington, North Carolina, and then headed north through the communities of Raleigh, Kinston, and Durham. The storm was the worst to hit North Carolina since 1954, killing 12 people and leaving an estimated one million people without electricity. In addition, significant flooding damage was done by the heavy rainfall following the storm.
Before the storm had even hit land, two 18-wheel tractor trailers from the Atlanta bishops’ storehouse headed for the scene, loaded with food, diapers and baby food, chain saws, generators, and other emergency supplies needed for cleanup. “The trucks arrived in Wilmington in less than 24 hours,” reported Elder Alvie Evans, Area Authority in the North America Southeast Area.
In addition, after requests from the Red Cross and Salvation Army, local Church leaders made significant acquisitions of bedding and underclothing and donated those items to victims who had lost their possessions in the floods.
For several weekends following the hurricane, a total of approximately 250 members from surrounding stakes arrived at the damaged areas to help with cleanup efforts. These members assisted mainly in clearing trees and cleaning out flooded homes.
“I know we gained a lot of respect and confidence within the community,” Elder Evans reported. “We were also very proud of the self-sufficiency of our members. They were self-reliant as they tended to their own needs, the needs of their families, and the needs of those around them. Much good will come out of this; we’ll hear of it for years to come.”
Hurricane Hortense hit Puerto Rico on Tuesday, 10 September, bringing heavy rains and flooding. Sixteen deaths were reported, and most of the island was left without electricity. Many roads were closed because of the flooding, and the lack of potable water was a serious concern.
“There was quite a bit of member help here,” noted Area Authority Elder Dale Miller, who resides in Puerto Rico. “A bishop lost the roof of his home, and the priesthood brethren in his ward organized to rebuild the roof. In addition, members helped in many areas clearing out homes, cleaning up items, cleaning out and drying out the homes, and then getting people moved back in again.”
Local Church leaders also prepared to use a meetinghouse in the area for a shelter, but it was not needed. “The gospel was certainly a source of comfort to the members,” Elder Miller said. “The concept of having faith and knowing they would be okay brought comfort and strength. It’s amazing how fast the people got on with their lives and got things back together.”