Floridian Latter-day Saints prepare for Hurricane Eta’s return, Typhoon Goni relief efforts continue in Philippines

Add Hurricane Eta’s name to the long list of destructive and sometimes deadly storms to have tormented the Americas during the 2020 hurricane season.

Eta, which made landfall as a tropical storm in the Florida Keys late Sunday, Nov. 8, initially hit Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane on Nov. 3 before wreaking havoc around Central America, where authorities are still surveying the damage after days of torrential rain.

At least 68 people in Central America have died, but hundreds more are missing, the Associated Press reported.

All missionaries serving in Central American nations struck by the storm are safe, accounted for and have adequate supplies, according to Church spokesman Daniel Woodruff.

Missionaries affected by flooding have been in contact with their families and are receiving support from the Central America Area and mission leaders.

“In the Honduras San Pedro Sula East Mission, some flooding occurred at the mission office and several missionary apartments,” Woodruff added.

Welfare leaders continue to make assessments Wednesday in the area regarding local members, their homes and appropriate responses.

“Thankfully, my family and I are safe and well at home, but our hearts ache because thousands of people have lost their homes, their belongings and even loved ones,” wrote Manuel Jaco, a member from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in a Facebook post. “Friends and relatives of friends have had to climb atop roofs of their homes and stay there overnight. … Others have been rescued and have been taken to shelters.”

Earlier this week, flooding from what later became Tropical Storm Eta occurred across many of South Florida’s most densely populated areas — stranding cars, flooding businesses and swamping entire neighborhoods with fast-rising water that had no place to drain.

As much as 16 inches of rain damaged one of the state’s largest COVID-19 testing sites, at Miami-Dade County’s Hard Rock Stadium, the Associated Press reported. Throughout the pandemic, it has been among the busiest places to get a coronavirus diagnosis. The site was expected to be closed until Wednesday, Nov. 11, or Thursday, Nov. 12.

A parking lot at Hard Rock Stadium, the site of one of the major COVID-19 testing sites in the state, is flooded in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Eta, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The site suffered major damage due to extensive rain dumped by the storm, and will remain closed until Wednesday or Thursday.
A parking lot at Hard Rock Stadium, the site of one of the major COVID-19 testing sites in the state, is flooded in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Eta, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The site suffered major damage due to extensive rain dumped by the storm, and will remain closed until Wednesday or Thursday. Credit: Lynne Sladky, Associated Press

Nancy Muñoz, a Latter-day Saint and Miami Lakes resident, told the Church News the past weekend in her community was deluded by heavy rains.

“And on Monday, it rained it even more and it was impossible to leave [the neighborhood],” she said. “There’s a lot of flooding across South Florida.”

Eta is not finished with Florida, as the state braced Wednesday for a second hit from the storm.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami issued a hurricane watch for a 120-mile stretch that includes Tampa and St. Petersburg. Eta was about 130 miles west-southwest of Fort Myers early Wednesday and moving at 15 mph, the Associated Press reported. 

“The overnight change in direction and intensity of the storm as it once again approaches the Florida coast has put the Tampa area stakes and those to the north and northeast on alert this morning,” wrote Elder Douglas B. Carter, an Area Seventy, in an email on Wednesday. “We are working with the Tampa and Jacksonville mission presidents to ensure the safety of the missionaries. … We like to move missionaries at least one day in advance of the storm hitting, so we are working to move those in any danger sometime this morning.”

Residents clear debris from a flooded street in the Driftwood Acres Mobile Home Park, in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Eta, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020, in Davie, Fla. Tropical Storm Eta was squatting off western Cuba on Tuesday after drifting away from South Florida, where it unleashed a deluge that flooded entire neighborhoods and covered the floors of some homes and businesses.
Residents clear debris from a flooded street in the Driftwood Acres Mobile Home Park, in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Eta, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020, in Davie, Fla. Tropical Storm Eta was squatting off western Cuba on Tuesday after drifting away from South Florida, where it unleashed a deluge that flooded entire neighborhoods and covered the floors of some homes and businesses. Credit: Lynne Sladky, Associated Press

It was the 28th named storm of a busy Atlantic hurricane season, tying the 2005 record for named storms. And late Monday, Nov. 9, it was followed by the 29th storm — Theta.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Theta broke the record of 28 named storms in 2005. Theta was centered Wednesday morning about 740 miles southwest of the Azores, bearing top sustained winds of 65 mph as that system moved east-northeast at 8 mph.

Scores of Latter-day Saints families have been affected — in some cases, repeatedly —  by the series of storms that have made the 2020 hurricane season one for the books. 

Many more members have answered calls to serve in Church-sponsored Helping Hands relief efforts.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, Church welfare leaders were continuing to assess and address the ongoing impact and needs of regions of the island nation affected by Typhoon Goni, which battered the region several days ago.

In this handout photo provided by the Philippine Red Cross, residents try to salvage belongings after their homes were toppled from Typhoon Goni in San Andres, Catanduanes province, eastern Philippines on Monday Nov. 2, 2020. More than a dozen people were killed as Typhoon Goni lashed the Philippines over the weekend, and about 13,000 shanties and houses were damaged or swept away in the eastern island province that was first hit by the ferocious storm, officials said Monday.
In this handout photo provided by the Philippine Red Cross, residents try to salvage belongings after their homes were toppled from Typhoon Goni in San Andres, Catanduanes province, eastern Philippines on Monday Nov. 2, 2020. More than a dozen people were killed as Typhoon Goni lashed the Philippines over the weekend, and about 13,000 shanties and houses were damaged or swept away in the eastern island province that was first hit by the ferocious storm, officials said Monday. Credit: Philippine Red Cross via Associated Press

Members there are mourning the loss of two fellow members — a 49-year-old woman and a 10-year-old boy — who were reportedly killed in the Oas municipality. Another member from the region was reported missing.

All missionaries are safe and accounted for following Goni.

Dozens of Church-properties, including the Philippines Legazpi Mission Home and the Philippines Naga Mission Home, were damaged by the storm. Nineteen meetinghouses have been used as evacuation centers and have, at various times, provided shelter to hundreds of displaced people.