Hurricane Dorian whips through the Bahamas. Here’s how it’s impacting missionaries, members in the area

The two full-time missionaries serving on Grand Bahama Island are safe after Hurricane Dorian pummeled the Bahamas, local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have confirmed.

Elder José L. Alonso, a General Authority Seventy and president of the Church’s Caribbean Area, has been working with President Fred Parker of the Jamaica Kingston Mission and other local leaders to track down information about the missionaries and members in the Bahamas.

“These missionaries currently are at the chapel belonging to the Grand Bahama Branch located in Freeport and providing assistance to members of the branch who have taken refuge there at the Church building, including the branch president and his family,” Elder Alonso said in an email to the Church News on Sept. 3.

On Thursday, Sept. 5, the Church News received an update that President Parker is continuing to work to get these two missionaries evacuated as soon as possible. “The two elders are doing great and their spirits are high,” President Parker said in an email. “They are assisting the branch president in Grand Bahama by visiting members and putting together a list of their critical needs.”

Rain brought on by Hurricane Dorian continues to pour in Freeport, Bahamas, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. Practically parking over the Bahamas for a day and a half, Dorian pounded away at the islands Tuesday in a watery onslaught that devastated thousands of homes, trapped people in attics and crippled hospitals.
Rain brought on by Hurricane Dorian continues to pour in Freeport, Bahamas, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. Practically parking over the Bahamas for a day and a half, Dorian pounded away at the islands Tuesday in a watery onslaught that devastated thousands of homes, trapped people in attics and crippled hospitals. Credit: AP

Two sister missionaries in Nassau were evacuated to the Cayman Islands, President Parker said. None of the missionaries serving in Turks and Caicos were evacuated.

Meanwhile, as Hurricane Dorian moves north to the coastal parts of the southeastern U.S., missionaries serving in areas projected to be hardest hit have been relocated to safer locations, said Church spokesman Daniel Woodruff.

There are two branches of the Church in the affected areas in the Bahamas: the New Providence Branch and the Grand Bahama Branch.

All members of the New Providence Branch, located in Nassau, have been accounted for and are in their homes. The water in the area is beginning to recede and no major flooding has affected the members’ homes, Elder Alonso said on Sept. 3.

Members of the Grand Bahama Branch –– which includes those on the islands of Grand Bahama, Marsh Harbour and Abaco –– have seen major destruction of buildings and property in some areas. Flooding is a concern. Thirty members residing on the island of Abaco evacuated before the storm hit, except one part-member family, which local leaders were able to reach.

According to an update from Elder Alonso and President Parker on Sept. 5, this family is safe and has taken refuge with another family on Abaco. The already devastating situation on Marsh Harbour and Abaco islands is now being heightened by criminal activity.

Cars sit submerged in water from Hurricane Dorian in Freeport, Bahamas, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. Dorian is beginning to inch northwestward after being stationary over the Bahamas, where its relentless winds have caused catastrophic damage and flooding.
Cars sit submerged in water from Hurricane Dorian in Freeport, Bahamas, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. Dorian is beginning to inch northwestward after being stationary over the Bahamas, where its relentless winds have caused catastrophic damage and flooding. Credit: AP

The meetinghouses for both branches, one located in Nassau and the other on Grand Bahama Island, are in good condition and are serving as shelters for those in need.

Nassau District President Orrin Ashby explained the difficulty of communicating with members in the affected areas.

“We still haven’t received all the information we would like so far,” President Ashby said, “but we are hopeful that everything with the members are OK.”

Hurricane Dorian was classified a category 5 storm as it hovered over the Bahamas on Monday. Record-tying wind speeds on landfall and large amounts of rain have caused severe damage, the Associated Press reported. Twenty deaths have been recorded so far. 

The storm swept by Florida and Georgia without much damage but is leaving serious effects on the Carolina coast. An estimated 3 million people have been warned to evacuate in the southeastern U.S.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that two missionaries serving in Turks and Caicos and four missionaries serving in the Cayman Islands had been evacuated. These missionaries were not evacuated.