Ike Updates from Texas and Louisiana
Here are some updates from Bishop BASIL on the parishes in the path of Hurricane Ike. From the reports that have come in so far, all clergy and their families are safe, and their homes are mostly unharmed, with only minor damage (at least, as can be determined now). Several priests have not been able to travel to their churches or contact their parishioners, so please continue your prayers for our Orthodox brethren as they clean and rebuild.
Fr. Serge Veselinovich, a Sebian priest in Galveston, has set up a blog with updates on the Orthodox community there: http://www.galvestonorthodox.blogspot.com.
From Fr. Finbar Thibodeaux from Christ the Savior Mission/Jacksonville, TX:
Jacksonville was hit fairly hard by Ike--though not nearly as much as Houston and Beaumont. I was told that the damage to our power grid was the worst in the local area. Our schools are closed due to no power. We had fairly strong winds with gusts near 80 MPH.
The congregation did well. No injuries or damage to property except for downed trees and limbs. Half of the congregation is still without power. At home, I am running on a small generator--so it is not unbearable. Thanks be to God for His protection!!
The Church building does not seemed to have sustained any damage. I will be performing a more complete assessment this week.
From Fr. Matthew MacKay of St. Paul's/Houston, TX:
It is as bad here as you see on the TV news. It truly looks like a war was fought here. There are broken trees and damaged houses as far as you can see. We were one of the fortunate families that only lost power for 24 hour hours. Cell phone and land line phones did not work very well at all.
Yesterday started out very badly. After Ike left, then the "monsoon" started. In 4 hours we got as much rain as we did the day before, during the hurricane, 6 inches. 11 inches in all and being only 15 feet above sea level there is no where for the water to go.
It took me four tries (3 hours) to get to Church on Sunday; most roads were blocked or flooded. When I did get to church we had no power and pools of standing water to mop up. There were 40 people of the normal 150 for worship. One of the women had made a tray of flowers before the storm for to use at our procession of the cross. Everything was done with candle light, doors open for air and buckets to catch the dripping water from the dome. We mopped up and prayed. (It was very hot and my vestments were soaked by the end of liturgy.)
At home, I got to cut up a fallen tree. Today will be raking up the yard and removing my tool shed from the front yard. I'm not sure when the roof and leaky windows will get fixed. I have heard one of our families has a tree in their house. Because there are so few businesses open with power, we have long lines for gas, food, water and ice. It is going to take us some time before things ever get back to normal around here.
From Fr. Michael Hull of Holy Apostles/Tyler, TX:
In all of my years growing up and living in Texas, I have never heard of an "inland" tropical storm or an "inland" hurricane. Saturday afternoon, Ike came through Tyler as a Category 1 hurricane. We had massive flooding, 90 mph winds, some injuries but no fatalities that I am aware of. The members of Holy Apostles are all accounted for and will be very busy cleaning up the what looks like a battle zone for the next week or so. The Khouriya and I will have to replace our roof. The church was unscathed, although with power out all over the region, it was kind of interesting celebrating liturgy this morning. Maybe the electric bill will be a little lower this month.
From Fr. Stephen Burke of St. Antony/Spring, TX:
The conditions in Spring, TX, after Ike came for a visit, are at the least tolerable. Many of the streets are flooded. I did celebrate Orthros and Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Cross. . . [we did] not have power so we served Athonite style, using only candles. By this morning, Kh. Michelle and I had electricity, house phone and internet service. Cell service is spotty. I have not been in contact with others as of yet as phone service is out in many locations. I will attempt to make contact with my parish family as the day goes on.
Fr. Joseph Huneycutt of St. George/Houston, TX reports that he and his family are well and that the only storm damage around their home is some downed fences and large tree branches. At St George Church there is no electricity and some water ran into the narthex, but other than that the church temple and other parish facilities are fine.
Fr. James Early of St. Joseph/Houston, TX and his family are all doing well and their home suffered only minor damage. Like most of Houston, they are without electricity and phone service.
Fr. Michel Pavez of St. Michael/Beaumont, TX and his family evacuated their home in Beaumont. He has been able to return to his home and found it undamaged, although he is without power and phone service. He has not been able to visit the church yet.
Fr. Gabriel Karam of Forty Holy Martyrs/Sugar Land, TX and his family are safe, having spent the night at the home of parishioners. The roads are closed to all except emergency vehicles, so he is also unable to check on the church temple.
Fr. Gregory of St. Silouan Mission/College Station, TX reported heavy winds and steady rainfall, but expected it to clear up before the end of the day.
From Fr. Daniel Bethancourt of St. Nicholas/Shreveport, LA:
Thank God, the storm did relatively little damage in Shreveport - a few trees fell on houses and so on with a few people injured (not members of St. Nicholas), but no deaths here, thank God. Because of the strong winds shaking our church building, the kitchen lost a good portion of its ceiling tiles, with an overhead light and AC vent left dangling. By God's grace we were able to hold Orthros and Liturgy for the feast of the cross. Thank you again for your prayers.
Fr. David Thomas, retired from St. John the Divine/Lake Charles, LA, says that the worst the area experienced was high winds and heavy rain. His house has no apparent major damage, but he has not been able to check on the church.
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