“Church Provides Hurricane Relief,” Ensign, Dec. 2004, 66–69
Four major hurricanes passed through islands in the Caribbean and parts of the United States in the months of August and September 2004, damaging homes and businesses and killing close to 1,700. Following hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne, the Church and its members reacted quickly to bring relief to those of many faiths. The Church sent more than 1.5 million pounds (680,000 kg) of food, 350,000 hygiene kits, and 400,000 items of clothing in 70 semitruck loads. By mid-October, members had donated more than 310,000 hours of labor during cleanup and other relief efforts.
On Friday, 14 August, Hurricane Charley slammed ashore in southwest Florida as a Category Four hurricane with winds up to 180 miles per hour (290 kph). At least 16 people were killed, hundreds were injured, and approximately 1,500 were left homeless. Millions went without power for as long as two weeks or more.
No Church members were reported killed or injured by the storm, but several were displaced from their homes. At least seven meetinghouses were damaged.
The Church and its members were quick to respond, organizing or participating in relief efforts in areas affected by the storm.
Hurricane Frances brought 125 mph (200 kph) winds through the Bahamas and into Florida only a few weeks after Charley struck. Fourteen people were reported dead, none of whom were Church members. More than 3 million were without power after the storm. About 53,000 people stayed in emergency shelters. Close to a dozen Church buildings were damaged. The Orlando Florida Temple was undamaged.
Many disaster response agencies were already depleted or still recovering from Hurricane Charley, but the Church set up temporary bishops’ storehouses inside a number of meetinghouses within the disaster area. Supplies were transported from Utah and Georgia. Approximately 100,000 hygiene kits were distributed, and members continued to help with cleanup around the state.
On 7 September, the Category Four Hurricane Ivan tore through the small island of Grenada. Winds of 145 mph (230 kph) left 90 percent of the island’s buildings damaged or uninhabitable. At least 39 people died, and 40,000 were in temporary shelters.
The storm brushed the islands of Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and St. Vincent before arriving in Jamaica as a Category Five storm with winds of 160 mph (260 kph). Jamaica suffered 15 deaths, and 8,000 people were left in shelters.
The next day Ivan battered the Cayman Islands as the eye of the storm passed just offshore. Two died and 50 percent of the islands’ homes were left uninhabitable.
The storm caused heavy damage in Alabama and Florida. In the United States, 52 deaths were attributed to Ivan, and more than 440,000 homes were left without power for days.
No missionaries or members were hurt in any of the affected locations.
The Church and its members again responded to the need for relief. Humanitarian donations of hygiene kits, canned goods, food boxes, and medical supplies were sent from bishops’ storehouses in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. Supplies were airlifted to Grenada, Jamaica, and Grand Cayman.
In Florida, priesthood leaders coordinated a major volunteer response. Many Church members came from hundreds of miles away to help meet members’ needs. Meetinghouses became shelters and/or distribution points for relief supplies not only from the Church, but from other relief agencies as well.
The Caribbean didn’t have long to recover from Hurricane Ivan before Hurricane Jeanne struck. On 18 September, the storm hit Haiti, which sustained the greatest loss of life in any of the areas hit by the storms.
At press time, more than 1,500 people were reported killed and another 900 people were missing in the small country located on the island of Hispaniola. One of those killed was a 70-year-old man who was a member of the Church. No missionaries were serving in the areas hit hardest. They had been evacuated earlier in the year due to political unrest in the area.
Hundreds of thousands were left homeless in the cities of Gonaïves, Port-de-Paix, and Terre-Neuve; 800 Church members were displaced. The majority of the damage occurred in Gonaïves, where 80 percent of the area remained underwater days after the storm’s landfall. The city’s meetinghouse was flooded with several feet of water and mud. In the city of Saint-Marc, approximately 150 members were living in tents next to the local meetinghouse.
Local Church leaders responded to members’ needs with the distribution of relief items and fast offering funds. Sixteen pallets of essential emergency items were airlifted to Haiti, and thirteen 40-foot (12-m) containers of clothing, shoes, blankets, and hygiene kits were sent from the Church’s Humanitarian Center.
The Red Cross requested grief counselors to help many of the people. Church Welfare Services sent 10 counselors to help those who had lost everything to cope with their circumstances and find hope for the future.
After devastating Haiti, the storm moved on to Florida, making landfall on September 26. No state in the U.S. has endured four hurricanes in a single season in more than 100 years. However, Jeanne was the fourth to hit Florida in two months, following Charley on 13 August, Frances on 5 September, and Ivan on 16 September.
Many Florida cities were in the path of multiple storms. The death toll in the U.S. for all four storms was 91.