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Ice storm leaves thousands of LDS without electricity

Thousands of Church members were still without electricity more than a week following the worst ice storm to ever hit the Northeast United States and Eastern Canada Jan. 7-9.

As of press time Jan. 14, hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses still had no electricity across northern sections of Quebec and Ontario, in Canada, and New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. No Church members, including missionaries, were seriously injured or had died as a result of the disaster. However, some members may remain without power for an additional two to three weeks.After causing deadly floods across the South the first week of January, a storm system spread thick, clinging ice across the Northeast United States and eastern third of Canada.

Eleven deaths have been blamed on the storm in Canada, which cut off power to nearly 3 million people in Quebec, halted most flights to Montreal and Ottawa and shut down rail service in most of eastern Canada.

In the United states three deaths were reported as a result of the storm, which downed power lines and blocked roads. Most the deaths were a result of carbon monoxide poisoning when people used makeshift ways to heat homes.

Many Church members living in rural areas were also left without water after the storm because electric pumps were not working. In some areas, telephone and cable lines were also damaged.

Missionaries and members who still do not have utilities have been living in the homes of other members or neighbors, or in Church meetinghouses - which, in many cases, are powered by emergency generators from the Indianapolis Bishops' Central Storehouse.

Church leaders have also offered Church-owned generators to provide power to local dairy farmers - who could not milk their hundreds of cows without electricity. A Church meetinghouse in New York is being used as a public shelter under priesthood direction. And the area presidency has recommended the donation of up to 4,000 blankets to the Maine Red Cross.

A large percentage of Church meetings were canceled Sunday, Jan. 11. Local Church leaders predicted that some meetinghouses would still not have electricity in time to hold services Jan. 18.

William F. Lawler, president of the Bangor Maine Stake, called the storm a reality check - on a family, branch and ward, stake, and community level. "We could have been much better prepared," he said. "You take away the phone, electricity and water and it really changes the balance of life.

"I have never seen anything like this before."

Pres. Lawler's wife, Roberta, said the freezing rain just kept coming. "You could hear a constant snapping of tree branches," she said. "You couldn't go outside for fear of trees falling, and there were power lines down everywhere."

Philip L. Collins, president of the Montreal Quebec Mount Royal Stake, said 100 percent of the members in his stake lost power during the storm - in which he said red and blue bolts flashed as falling trees crashed against electrical lines.

"What we learned from this is that we need to be better prepared for emergencies that don't involve food," he said. "We were not well prepared for long-term loss of power. We did not all have 72 hour kits, batteries, or alternate power sources."

Pres. Lawler, Pres. Collins, and other local Church leaders in the affected areas, said Church members weathered the storm with the help of home and visiting teachers, who took responsibility for each other. They shared their homes, fire wood, water, food, blankets, heaters, and camping stoves.

Members and missionaries also helped people in their communities - removing downed trees and volunteering with the Red Cross. Many members opened their homes to neighbors.

Youth in the Ottawa Ontario Stake have already participated in several service projects and have scheduled another one to help clear away debris within their stake's boundaries, said Pres. Gordon de Savigny.

"We have a town of 1,800 within our stake that lost power for three to four days. The youth have worked there in the shelter serving food," he noted.

Montreal Quebec Stake president, Benoit Duquette, said he couldn't believe all the Christian activities he has witnessed by Church members and others. "It is great to see everyone pulling together in the same direction," he said.

Pres. Duquette said one sister in the stake, whose husband was away on business, was home alone with their five children when the storm hit. This sister couldn't get her stove going and the family's sump pump was not functioning. "The brethren were there in no time to help out," he said.

Another member of his stake, an electrician, spent time at Church buildings and members' houses assuring their generators were operating properly.

Laird W. Stinson, bishop of the Waterville Ward, Bangor Maine Stake, also looked out for others during the storm.

Bishop Stinson rewired five homes, without a heat source, on his street, so that they could be heated with a generator. Since the neighbors only had one generator among them, "we passed it around from house to house to house," he said. Each family used the generator for four hours before passing it on. The neighbors shared the generator for two and a half days.

Bishop Stinson said his neighborhood - which relies on wells run by electricity - also went without water. His family carried water in containers from their stake president's house.

However, after power was restored, he said he began to see the storm as a blessing - an opportunity to give service, get to know neighbors and to spend time with family. "The kids couldn't watch television or play Nintendo," he said. "We had to do things as a family."