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Hurricane Florence floods, devastates 20 Latter-day Saint families' homes

Hurricane Florence’s relentless first-day assault on the Carolinas is impacting a number of Latter-day Saints, with floodwaters inundating homes and transforming subdivision streets into canals.

“As of this morning, we have maybe 20 member families whose homes are uninhabitable, and I’m sure there are many more,” said Kinston North Carolina Stake President David Walker on Friday.

Members living in the riverside city of New Bern and surrounding communities in North Carolina’s Craven County have been hit especially hard.

“The flooding is just so devastating,” said President Walker. “My nephew and his wife in New Bern have three feet of water in their house.”

The stake president is also concerned for Church members and their neighbors in the coastal communities in nearby Carteret County — including Harkers Island, an area rich in Church history.

As Florence continues its surge, Friday afternoon’s high tide near Harkers Island and neighboring areas could prove troublesome, he said. “We’ve probably got 24 more hours of bad weather in that area.”

There were no initial reports of injuries as local priesthood and Relief Society leaders in eastern North Carolina scrambled to make contact with members from their wards and branches who opted to stay in their homes during the ongoing storm.

Cell phone service and other communication have proven fairly reliable.

The Category 1 hurricane reportedly made landfall at 7:15 a.m., local time, near Wrightsville Beach, just east of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Union Point Park is flooded with rising water from the Neuse and Trent Rivers in New Bern, N.C. Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. Hurricane Florence already has inundated coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power, and more is to come.
Union Point Park is flooded with rising water from the Neuse and Trent Rivers in New Bern, N.C. Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. Hurricane Florence already has inundated coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power, and more is to come. Photo: Gray Whitley, Sun Journal

Florence’s center may linger for another whole day along coastal North and South Carolina, punishing homes with crushing winds and floods and endangering those who have stayed behind, CNN reported.

“We are not in the worst part of this yet, but should start to see some impact later today,” Charleston South Carolina Stake President Darren Johnson reported Friday morning. “If we feel we are ready, and if we are spared from the major impact of this storm, we will be ready to go and assist in (affected) areas.”

Full-time missionaries serving in hurricane-threatened areas in the Carolinas evacuated prior to Florence’s Thursday arrival.

“We are all safe and doing well,” said South Carolina Columbia Mission President Weston Innes in a text message. “We have already had some service opportunities and know there will be much more in the coming weeks. We feel the prayers of so many wonderful Saints.”

President Walker said he has asked the Church-operated Bishops’ Storehouse in Atlanta to deliver building supplies and other provisions to impacted areas in his stake as soon as the roads are accessible.

“In some areas, that could take a week or more,” he said.

Longtime Harkers Island resident Lloyd Michels said he would never forget Hurricane Florence’s unwanted visit to his tight-knit island community. “We stayed in our home and made out okay, but this has been a fantastic storm,” he said.

Residents at Trent Court Apartments wait out the weather as rising water gets closer to their doors in New Bern, N.C. Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. Hurricane Florence already has inundated coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power, and more is to come.
Residents at Trent Court Apartments wait out the weather as rising water gets closer to their doors in New Bern, N.C. Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. Hurricane Florence already has inundated coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power, and more is to come. Photo: Gray Whitley, Sun Journal

Since arriving, “the storm has been constant, but is seems to be getting better,” he said after he and his wife, Lillian, endured an anxious night of powerful wind and driving rain. “This is as bad or worse as I’ve ever seen.”

Still, Michels feels fortunate his home escaped any significant damage.

Emily Hancock Nelson lives in Carteret County’s Otway community. The lifelong Latter-day Saint regards the reality of hurricanes in her coastal community with measured humor.

“It’s the price you pay for living in paradise,” she said.

Hurricane Florence hit her home in differing bands of intensity throughout the evening. She was only able to sleep for a couple of hours early Friday. Meanwhile, flooded streets are preventing her from leaving her neighborhood.

“But it really could have been much worse for us,” she said.

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