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Hurricane Irene: BYU students, missionaries safe in D.C. area

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Hurricane Irene’s swipe at the East Coast left only slight damage in Washington, D.C., but proved a memorable welcome for newly arrived interns in BYU’s Washington Seminar.

Several students had flights cancelled or delayed and missed the hurricane as well as the check-in. A married couple drove the final 700 miles of their cross-country trip in one day in order to make it ahead of the heavy rains and winds that hit the area late Saturday afternoon as they were unloading their car.

Nearly 40 BYU students will call the Barlow Center “home” as they work in internships fall semester. New arrivals were greeted with urgent instructions to get to a nearby neighborhood store and buy water and food to get through the weekend. They were greeted at the store with long lines waiting to get in as Washingtonians prepared to hunker down.

They remained safe inside the Barlow Center Saturday night after a pasta dinner--planned for just such an emergency--watching movies and playing games. They were equipped with flashlights and batteries, but there was no loss of power.

However, many areas in Maryland and Northern Virginia remained without power Sunday. Several stakes and wards in the area cancelled church services. BYU interns and LDS students at The George Washington University nearby gathered for a service together in the Barlow Center’s great room as the sun shone brightly on a breezy Sunday afternoon.

Missionaries in the Washington DC North Mission curtailed proselyting activities Saturday evening. They checked on elderly residents in their neighborhoods and held private Sabbath services in their own apartments, many of which were still without power Sunday.

President James R. Matsumori said two missionary cars were damaged by tree limbs. Baptisms scheduled earlier in the day went forward as planned Saturday, while later ones have been postponed.

President Matsumori said, “The missionaries are looking forward to many service opportunities following the high winds and flooding rain.”

A 5.8 earthquake centered about 70 miles south of Washington rocked the area just a few days earlier, making area residents hyper-alert as they prepared for an unpredictable hurricane.

On Aug. 23, four of the six spires on the Washington DC Temple shook so violently that they toppled from the towers, one of them piercing the roof of the “bridge” between the foyer and the temple and another smashing into a support column and rendering a temple van inoperable, according to Earl C. Tingey, temple president. However, roof repairs were made quickly, before a heavy rain came two days later.

With the hurricane forecast, he said, the temple proceeded on schedule with a handful of marriages and a family sealing before it closed early at 6 p.m. Saturday, “simply because there was nobody there. Everyone had stayed home.”

The visitors' center also closed early.

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