TARBORO, N.C. Church members here are recovering in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd which caused flooding that swamped much of the United States' East Coast and spurred the largest peacetime evacuation in U.S. history Sept. 15-17.
They are also waiting, hoping that as the water recedes they will be able to enter affected areas and render service.
"I don't know of a person who hasn't said, 'When we can get there [we'll help]. Let us know. We will take our family and help them rebuild,' " said Bradford L. Walker, president of the Wilmington North Carolina Stake.
At least 40 people died when rain inundated the eastern seaboard. They were among more than 60 deaths blamed on Hurricane Floyd, which hit the Bahamas before moving into New England. No Church members or missionaries were killed or injured during the storm.
However, at least 20 homes belonging to Church members were destroyed and hundreds of Church members were evacuated when flood waters moved across several areas in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. In Tarboro, N.C., where about 75 Church members live the Tar River crested at 24 feet above flood stage.
The water caused power and telephone outages, and contaminated drinking water along the East Coast. Thousands of chickens, turkeys and hogs drowned in the flood, worsening the already polluted water sources.
J. Horace Mizelle, first counselor in the Goldsboro North Carolina Stake, explained that five days after much of North Carolina's coast was evacuated, numerous member families were still not able to get back into their homes. Others did not have electricity or drinking water. An emergency trailer with food, blankets, sleeping bags, cots, diapers and toilet paper was dispatched from the Atlanta, Ga., Bishop's Storehouse to help members and non-members in the stake. In the trailer were some 2,000 gallons of water to help more than 3,000 people at a shelter in Tarboro. The Church also donated a trailer full of food to be distributed by the Salvation Army in Kinston.
Flood water covered and destroyed the home of Pres. Mizelle's son. Scott and Cheri Mizelle, members of the Rocky Mount Ward, Goldsboro North Carolina Stake, lost all their belongings in the disaster one of five major storms to have hit the area in the past three years.
Pres. Mizelle said that he expected more than 200 volunteers from the Raleigh and Durham North Carolina stakes to help the flood victims in the coming weeks. There is a lot to be done as hundreds of homes are covered with mud, debris and bacteria.
"The members [in the affected areas] are doing well," Pres. Mizelle said. "People who were not affected are helping them, going from home to home and going to their places of business and helping them clean those also."
Pres. Walker explained that he has seen a theme of service spread across his stake, where 25 or 30 people were still staying in the Wallace Branch building five days after the flooding began. Branch president Ronald E. Dean's home was hit by a falling tree, severely damaging the structure. However, said Pres. Walker, despite his own problems Pres. Dean is "aware of all the members there."
"We are waiting for the waters to go down and then we will help them get their lives back together," Pres. Walker said. "We will all band together and help each other. That is the way we get through things like this."
In the Morristown New Jersey Stake, about 15 member families had homes that were damaged in the storm at varying degrees. One woman, the only member in her family, was stranded on the roof of her home before being picked up by rescuers in a row boat, said stake Pres. Richard A. Myers.
Others evacuated their homes, walking through waist-deep water, he added.
Pres. Myers called Don Silver, a member of the stake, a good example of the service rendered by numerous Church members. Brother Silver lives near the affected areas and is a former branch president. "He has been out helping people, pumping water and assessing needs. He has been rolling up his sleeves and going to work," Pres. Myers said.
He explained that Church members were extremely helpful as local leaders tried to track down all the Latter-day Saints in the stake, in many areas without the aid of telephones or cellular phones. "The people have really rallied around each other," he said.