Dramatic Weather Rallies Members to Service

  By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 22 February 2013

Article Highlights

  • A tornado devastated three counties in Mississippi on February 10, destroying 570 homes and buildings.
  • Winter storm Nemo hit the U.S. Northeast on February 9 and 10, dumping several feet of snow and knocking out power in many areas.
  • Members and missionaries in both areas are arranging cleanup projects.

Folks from wards and branches stretching from the U.S. Northeast to the southern state of Mississippi rallied to help their fellow members and neighbors following episodes of severe weather that claimed lives, destroyed homes, and served as dramatic reminders of the importance of family preparation.

• In Mississippi, a huge tornado twisted across three counties on February 10, leaving 570 houses, businesses, and mobile homes damaged or destroyed. More than 80 people were injured—although there were no reports of death and no one was unaccounted for. Counted among those impacted by the tornado were several Latter-day Saints. The homes of 18 members suffered various levels of damage. Several, said Hattiesburg Mississippi Stake President Kevin B. Pack, are believed to be “completely destroyed.”

Three members were injured, including a 70-year-old woman who was hospitalized.

“[This sister] was blown from her mobile home and was found three homes away,” said President Pack. “She is dealing with some broken bones, but her injuries are not life-threatening.”

No missionaries were injured. Civic officials say the state’s warning system alerted residents of tornado danger and contributed to the absence of deaths. Still, the tornado exacted a heavy cost in property damage. Church-owned buildings generally fared well, although the roof was damaged at the stake center in Hattiesburg.

“Our community is hurting right now,” said President Pack.

Members throughout the stake responded immediately to calls for help.

“We had about 75 men out working in the area and clearing out trees,” said President Pack a day after the tornado touched down. Their efforts were slowed by heavy rains that were expected to continue in the region. Meanwhile, the stake was organizing a large-scale cleanup project for the coming days. Missionaries from the Mississippi Jackson Mission are expected to participate in the multiday project.

“We will not be working with just the members, but throughout the entire community,” said President Pack.

• Meanwhile, the U.S. Northeast was trying to get back on its feet following a deadly weekend blizzard February 9–10, dubbed Nemo. The historic storm dumped several feet of snow from New York City to Boston and up through the Maine-Canadian border.

The storm was blamed for 11 deaths, although no Latter-day Saints or missionaries were harmed. Hundreds of thousands of residents in the region lost power to their homes, and crews were still working to restore electrical service at press time. The storms also prompted several LDS units to cancel Sunday services.

Coastal wards and branches from the Hingham Massachusetts Stake were hit especially hard by Nemo, and many had to endure days without power.

“The Relief Society from the Plymouth Branch has been using their building twice a day to serve hot meals,” said the stake president, Bryan L. Ward.

Home teachers have also been called upon to help individuals and families in need. One man whose driveway was buried under several feet of snow texted his home teacher in hopes he could help him shovel out. “Soon there were 15 people at work,” he said.

Plainview New York Stake President Mark Hardman said units in his stake located in and around Long Island were also buried under impressive levels of snow.

“The storm incapacitated movement for many members, but we’re actually doing pretty well,” he said.

Major roadways such as the Long Island Expressway were closed during the heavy hours of snowfall, but most members have been able to return to work and school.

Nemo did serve as an uninvited reminder of the importance of preparation. “We’ve learned the importance of being ready when these sort of things happen,” noted President Hardman.