Fierce storm claims lives of three members

Three Church members were among those who perished in what is being termed the "storm of the century," which blasted the eastern United States and Canada on March 13 and 14.

A father and his two children, members of the Lake City (Fla.) 1st Ward, drowned in flooding on Dekle Beach, about 20 miles southwest of Perry, Fla.Levy Sapp Jr., his wife, Melinda, their 20-month-old daughter Anissa and 5-year-old son Levy Sapp III, were at a family gathering in a house on the beach with six other people, relatives of Sister Sapp, when the storm hit, according to Bishop Terrell H. McRae.

Sister Sapp was one of only four survivors of the 10 occupants of the house. "Melinda lost her husband, two children, mother and brother," Bishop McRae said.

Early the morning of March 13, the storm hit in full fury on the beach with 100 mph winds and 10-foot tides, the bishop said.

"They had been watching it," he recounted. "About 1 a.m., the water was about 2 feet under the house, which is built on 15-foot pilings. They tried to get out at that time, but decided they had no alternative but to ride out the storm. Early in the morning, the storm knocked out the windows. They knew the house was going to go. They got bed sheets and tried to make ropes."

The bishop said Sister Sapp survived because she held fast to a floating board. During the disaster, she found her infant daughter but was unable to revive her.

Eventually four of the 10 occupants of the house were rescued. The other six perished.

Funeral services were scheduled March 18 in the ward for the three deceased Church members. The family requested that two other family members who died in the flood, although not LDS, be included in the funeral, Bishop McRae said.

Elsewhere in the storm's path, Church members seemed to fare better.

Elder Alexander B. Morrison of the Seventy, president of the North America Southeast Area, said the storm was particularly unfortunate in Florida because the state was ravaged last year by Hurricane Andrew.

Elder Cree-L Kofford of the Seventy, president of the North America Northeast Area, reported that there was no damage to property or life among members or to Church facilities in the Northeast area.

"Several cities are immobilized and Church meetings have been canceled, but everyone is in the process of digging out of the snow," he said.

Elder Kofford noted that members remained self-sufficient during the storm and did not have to fall back on Church emergency plans for help.

Vernon R. Rice, president of the Wilmington Delaware Stake, said bishops in the stake used their home teaching networks to stay in touch with older and sick people who were vulnerable to the weather.

"I was pleased with the organization. Everything seemed to work well," he said. "The storm was a big inconvenience more than anything."

Members in the New York New York Stake, which includes Manhattan, made it through the storm without incident, reported stake Pres. John R. Stone.

Church was held in units where members rely on the subway system because the system was not affected by the snow, he noted.

"We were really blessed in our stake; we didn't have anyone hurt," said Pres. Vernie L. Corbett of the Gainesville Florida Stake. "A lot of the members were without power, and we had to cancel Church services for two wards that meet in the building in Ocala."

In the Asheville North Carolina Stake, Pres. Ronald Henry Lofts said: "I've contacted all the units in our stake. We've had members temporarily discomforted, but nobody had serious problems. We've been in contact through home teachers."

Pres. Lofts said he is mainly concerned now about potential flooding as predicted 60-degree temperatures begin to melt the snow that fell in the area.

The storm, which closed airports and many schools, ripped through the east from the Gulf Coast to Canada, causing more than 175 deaths and burying much of the eastern third of the United States in up to three feet of snow, according to a United Press International report.

It was one of the worst U.S. snowstorms this century. In 1958, a storm left 171 people dead in the East. A 1966 East Coast storm killed 165. In 1888, 400 people died in a March blizzard that dumped up to 5 feet of snow in the East.

This year's blizzard set a string of low-temperature and low-barometric pressure records. One meteorologist described the storm as a hurricane with snow instead of rain - complete with tornadoes spinning from the storm path.

The storm affected 19 states, including Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, Delaware, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Kentucky.

Governors in several states sought federal disaster assistance, and property damage was estimated at a billion dollars.

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