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Floridian Latter-day Saints Prepare for Hurricane Eta, Typhoon Goni Relief Efforts Continue in Philippines

Super typhoon killed at least 20 people and damaged thousands of homes

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By Jason Swensen, Church News


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, November 8, initially hit Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane on November 3 before wreaking havoc around Central America, where authorities are still surveying the damage after days of torrential rain.

Hurricane Eta
A father and son clean the mud from their home after the Chemelecon river flooded and destroyed many homes in San Pedro Sula. In the aftermath of Hurricane Eta, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced due to flooding. Photo by Seth Sidney Berry/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.2020

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, November 11, or Thursday, November 12.

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.”

It was the 28th named storm of a busy Atlantic hurricane season, tying the 2005 record for named storms. And late Monday, November 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.

Typoon Goni

Hurricane Goni Philippines
Residents of a village near the sea search for their belongings in the wake of Super Typhoon Goni on November 3, 2020, in Tiwi, Albay, Philippines. Super Typhoon Goni, this year's most powerful storm in the world, hit the Philippines with wind gusts of up to 190 miles per hour on November 1. The typhoon left at least 20 people killed. Photo by Jes Aznar/Getty Images.null

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.

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.

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