Storms Cause Tragedy, Extensive Damage

“Storms Cause Tragedy, Extensive Damage,” Ensign, Jan. 2003, 74–75

Storms Cause Tragedy, Extensive Damage

Members of the Church were affected by storms around the world in recent months. They were also affected by the response of their fellow Church and community members as they served side by side in the aftermaths.


Hurricane Isidore tore across Mexico in September 2002, affecting members and leaving a temple and several meetinghouses damaged.

Elder Gregory Scott Johnson of Fountain Green, Utah, was killed near Mérida, Mexico, in an incident related to Hurricane Isidore. He came in contact with a live electrical wire downed during the storm. Elder Johnson was serving in the México Mérida Mission at the time.

The Mérida México Temple sustained substantial damage to the roof and exterior walls during the storm, causing water damage to the interior of the temple. Several meetinghouses in the area were also damaged by the storm. Continued heavy rains and flooding after the hurricane slowed repair efforts, but all buildings were repaired and the temple was soon functioning. An estimated 800 Latter-day Saint families had to leave their homes due to the storm.

The Church’s first humanitarian response came the day after the hurricane. Working with the administration office in Mexico City, Luis Felipe Cejín, president of the Mérida México Stake and chair of the regional welfare committee, arranged for the immediate purchase and distribution of 430 food boxes to members.

In the ensuing days, additional food, building supplies, and tools were sent to the region. Members from throughout Mexico joined in the relief effort. People gathered at the Villahermosa México Stake Center to package food, medication, and construction materials and load them for shipment. Stakes in Tula, Anáhuac, and Puebla responded with similar contributions.

Terry J. Spallino, director for temporal affairs in Mexico, recalls the reaction of one brother, baptized two years ago, when he received building supplies to replace the roof blown off his business during the storm.

“He told us he could hardly believe what had happened,” says Brother Spallino. “Then he bore his testimony of how blessed he and his family had been since joining the Church.”

Church Humanitarian Services in Salt Lake City responded with a cargo jet filled with food, hygiene kits, blankets, and other emergency supplies. The government of Mexico asked that the Church care for its own members first and then assist others as possible. The 128,000 pounds (60,000 kg) of supplies, equivalent to six semitrailers full of goods, aided more than 20,000 people in the Yucatán Peninsula.

“We want to take care of our members, of course,” says Garry R. Flake, director of Humanitarian Services, “and we’re working with local authorities to see that the aid reaches as many additional people as possible.”

As supplies flooded in from around Mexico and from Church headquarters, members and missionaries were on hand to unload and distribute materials to those in need.

The response was wonderful to observe, says Brother Spallino. “While many continue to suffer from lack of electricity and loss of employment, at least there were roofs overhead and food on the tables during this difficult time,” he said.

Tropical Storm Lili swiped the island of Jamaica on its way to becoming a hurricane, leaving several member homes damaged. When the storm reached Louisiana in the United States, it was a category two hurricane. Reports indicate one member home was severely damaged from the winds and several others were damaged from flooding. Members and missionaries contributed to community cleanup efforts in this area.


What experts called the worst flooding in 200 years left several countries in central Europe with considerable damage and ruin in August. Bridges, homes, and freeways were swept away in many parts of Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, and southern Russia. At the height of the flooding, some areas were submerged under as much as 12 feet (3.5 m) of water.

As the cleanup began, the Church donated U.S. $635,000 and worked with local governments and relief groups to provide food, pumps, drying equipment, and other emergency supplies.

“These supplies augmented the enormous contribution of labor from our members and missionaries in Europe,” says Garry R. Flake, director of Church Humanitarian Services. Members and missionaries throughout central Europe were on hand to assist in cleanup efforts in their local communities.

The meetinghouse of the Döbeln Branch, Dresden Germany Stake, was flooded with water and mud. No members or missionaries were reported injured.

The Church has an established tradition of humanitarian service throughout Europe. It sponsored 203 projects among 18 European nations during 2001.

Members and missionaries unload supplies sent from a stake in Villahermosa, Mexico, to aid victims of Hurricane Isidore. (Photograph courtesy of Church Temporal Affairs, Mexico.)

Volunteers from the Freiberg Ward, Dresden Germany Stake, clean a neighbor’s yard after severe flooding. (Photograph by Claire Freedman.)