As the National Hurricane Center predicted a 75 percent chance that the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season will be more active than normal, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in hurricane areas have spent the last few months preparing.
Mormons have made necessary preparations to protect their homes and families in the event of a weather disaster, at the same time many have volunteered to help prepare their communities for a Hurricane Katrina-like catastrophe.
“Today’s typical American family lifestyle is not one that encourages preparing for future need,” said Patte Comstock, the Church’s public affairs director for southeast Texas. “We can, however, have peace of mind by proactively preparing for tomorrow and controlling the extent to which we could become a victim of disasters and emergencies.”
Dr. Hal Black, a dentist in Prairie View, Texas, and also a local Church leader, had such an opportunity when he was asked by Mayor Frank Jackson to present information on 72-hour emergency kits during a monthly city council meeting in May.
“The Church invests a great deal of resources and effort to help teach the principles of individual and family preparedness,” explained Dr. Black, “not only to our members but also to our neighbors.”
Mormons in Houston brought preparedness lessons to attendees of all ages at one of the largest hurricane preparedness workshops in the country. Two exhibits were created, one for adults and one for children, focusing on principles on being prepared for weather emergencies. Children were taught how to prepare backpacks filled with emergency survival supplies, how to have a family emergency plan and when to know the right time to leave.
Following the 2005 hurricanes, thousands of Mormons volunteered more than 10,000 days of labor cleaning up homes and neighborhoods destroyed by Katrina and Rita. Crews went in to some of the harder-hit areas and set up tent cities so that they could stay in the area and work around the clock to remove debris, mend roofs and repair home interiors.
In the PBS documentary “The Mormons,” James Madison, a Louisiana resident, recounted that “nobody was there on the ground with us except for the Mormons and their yellow T-shirts who showed up to help us clean. They didn’t just come in to hand us a piece of food; they actually got down and cleaned and worked.”
Cleaning was not the only area Mormons helped with. Church storehouses in Louisiana and Texas containing food, water and tools were opened to communities, regardless of their faith. Fire chief Larry Hess described the Church’s storage process as “a business that specialized in emergency or community disaster response.”
In total, the Church provided the Katrina and Rita destroyed areas with the following:
- 200 semi-trailer loads of emergency supplies
- 4,900,000 pounds of food and water
- 1,000,000 hygiene kits
- 250,000 school kits
- 60,000 cleaning kits
- 70,000 kitchen kits
- 40,000 bedroom linen sets
- 336,000 hours of volunteer service