FORT MYERS, Florida
As a busy stake president, it’s not unusual for Joseph Lindsay to spend most of his day on a typical Sunday inside a Mormon meetinghouse.
But yesterday was a Sabbath day like no other for the leader of the Fort Myers Florida Stake.
President Lindsay and his wife, Stacy, spent Sunday hunkered down inside the Bonita Springs Ward building as Hurricane Irma raged and howled outside. The Lindsays weren’t alone. Thirty-two full-time missionaries serving in the Fort Myers area joined them for the weekend.
Besides a few bouts of cabin fever, everyone weathered the storm in good shape.
“The waiting was the hardest part,” said President Lindsay, who remained at the meetinghouse with the missionaries on Monday while power and running water were being restored across the region.
“It’s been a great blessing that the storm was muted in our area,” he said.
Mormon leaders living along Irma’s Florida path were making initial damage assessments Monday and checking on the welfare of their members. The arduous work of contacting people and gathering information will likely take several days. Many from the Fort Myers stake and others evacuated their homes and won’t return for several days.
Prior to Irma’s arrival, missionaries in vulnerable areas received instruction to be prepared with food, water and other provisions. They were also moved to secure areas outside their residences, as needed.
Hurricane Irma will never be forgotten in Florida or across the islands of the Caribbean. Dozens have died and countless others have lost their homes, businesses, vehicles and boats to the disaster.
Meanwhile, many across Florida on Monday were enduring widespread power outages and cell phone disruptions.
Miami residents feared they would take a direct hit from Irma. While the path of the hurricane traveled largely along the west side of Florida, its massive reach was dramatically felt across the greater Miami area.
“They said that the hurricane missed us, but that was the hardest ‘miss’ I’ve ever been through,” said Miami Florida Stake President Matthew Davis, who lives in the city’s El Portal neighborhood.
Along with some 6 million other Floridians, President Davis was without power in his home Monday. He doesn’t expect electricity in his home to be restored anytime soon.
“A massive tree fell in my neighbor’s yard and took down a power line,” he said.
President Davis has been in contact with his bishops, and the reports are generally favorable in his stake. There were no reports of any serious damage to members’ homes. He was still waiting for the roads to clear to venture out and make assessments of the meetinghouses in his stakes.
He's worried about his fellow Latter-day Saints and friends living along heavily impacted regions along the Gulf Coast and in the Florida Keys.
“We’re planning to help them out as soon as we can,” he said.
Jesus and Nancy Munoz live north of Miami in Miramar. The Mormon couple shuttered up their home on Saturday, locked their doors and then waited for Irma’s arrival.
Jesus admits he didn’t get much sleep during the tempestuous weekend.
“The noise from the wind was terrible,” he said. “The hardest part was being inside the house, hearing all that noise, but not being able to see what was going on outside.”
When they finally emerged from their home on Monday the Munoz’s were relieved to see their property damage was limited to fallen trees and decimated landscaping. They’ve joined the legions of Floridians on Monday who are cleaning up their yards and making personal assessments of Irma’s wrath.
The hurricane caused sizable damage in Naples on Florida’s southwest coast. Naples Ward Bishop Michael Dalby reported Monday that many in his ward evacuated the area before the storm’s arrival. There was no power or running water in many parts of the coastal city, so it will likely take several days for Latter-day Saints here to fully assess the damage.
The bishop finds comfort knowing others are looking out for Florida and the entire Irma-impacted region.
“I know our Church leaders are concerned and that we have their support,” he said.