In October 2010 the New York New York Stake was counseled to prepare for a hurricane. It had been more than 70 years since a hurricane had impacted the area but the stake president, David L. Buckner, followed counsel and members of the area went into action.
In June, a Sunday meeting focused on hurricane preparedness and in August, when the tropical storm hit, the members in the Manhattan area were ready.
"We were ready and incredibly prepared for others who needed our help and assistance," said President Buckner.
The Red Cross contacted local Church leaders to help at shelters. Many members in the stake responded to the call. President Buckner reported that many members turned up to help.
Providence Rhode Island Stake President Richard S. Hutchins said that his stake was also prepared. In June, bishops were contacted and given 24 hours to report back how many members in their wards had 72-hour kits in place. The goal was to find out where the stake lacked in communication and the number of 72-hour kits in place. After the test run, Relief Societies held meetings and clinics to help in the preparedness efforts. President Hutchins said they were planning to do another test run when the storm hit.
"This storm ended up being our second test," he said and noted that many were grateful for the advanced preparation because it moved them into action. Land lines, for the most part, were intact and people retained cell phone coverage but he said that if the hurricane had directly hit the area the people in the path would have had to rely on ham radios as points of communication. They did not have to worry about a loss of communication.
"If we listen, the Lord will prepare us," President Hutchins counseled.
According to a Church welfare report, tens of millions of people were impacted by Hurricane Irene as it traveled through the Caribbean and along 1,100 miles of U.S. coastline. All missionaries in the affected areas are safe and accounted for and no deaths or injuries have been reported among members.
In the Dominican Republic, members have had their homes damaged or destroyed and have been evacuated to meetinghouses. Members in the United States, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and Dominican Republic are assisting with clean-up efforts and the Church is providing relief supplies to affected areas.
At least 26 deaths in the United States have been attributed to the storm with power outages from North Carolina to Vermont. The largest storm to hit the U.S. in three years,
Hurricane Irene struck land Saturday, Aug. 27, near Cape Lookout, N.C. Several states had storm surges as high as eight feet. As many as 6 million people in 12 states were without power over the weekend as wind, water and trees caused damage to many communities. Power in some locations is expected to be out for at least one to two weeks. The estimated clean-up costs are expected to exceed $7 billion in the United States alone.
In North Carolina, the hardest-hit area in the states, Kinston North Carolina Stake President David C. Walker had damage to his house. He told of his family going to the attic with buckets trying to keep the water out of the house but also praying.
"There was just a sense that together our family could weather any storm," he said. "I think it brought home that spiritual preparedness goes together with temporal preparedness. If you are lacking in one of those areas you don't feel complete."
The eye of the hurricane passed through the Kinston stake but President Walker said the members were prepared. He said trucks will bring supplies from the bishop's storehouse at Tucker, Ga., near Atlanta, and it will be a good missionary tool "to show that Latter-day Saints are Christians, that we are partners and we are here to help."
Stake President Matthew S. Harding of the Raleigh North Carolina Stake said that he sent an email to the bishops in the stake and asked them to join their faith in prayer that the storm would move east. By the time the hurricane hit landfall it had tempered to a Category 1 hurricane.
"I can tell you that prayers were answered," said President Harding.