For weeks we have followed news reports of two massive hurricanes — Harvey and now Irma. The projected pathways have modified, and reactions of those possibly in harm’s way have varied immensely. Some seemed not much worried as they prepared their homes for hurricanes; they said that they have weathered storms before. Some have even chosen to stay in their boats. Having witnessed the destruction of Hurricane Hugo which hit South Carolina September 22, 1989, I cannot imagine such folly. As Florida’s Governor Scott has repeatedly said: things can be replaced, your lives cannot.
These two storms have been larger than many before. While the people of Texas and Louisiana are still reeling from the damages in their states, a record number of people have been ordered to evacuate their homes in Florida. At the time of this writing 6.3 million people were told to leave their Florida homes. Governor Rick Scott in Florida and Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia have issued mandatory evacuation orders, and in South Carolina, Governorordered the mandatory evacuation of seven barrier islands. Governor McMaster also issued a State of Emergency as a major strike on South Carolina would be the first in 28 years. Kay Ivey, Governor of Alabama, also issued a State of Emergency before the arrival of Irma.
Lessons learned from previous storms have caused many changes that have helped with the preparation for these horrific storms. In some places, changes in building codes have contributed to making stronger buildings. Better knowledge of the needed number of volunteers as well as evacuation centers has allowed for advance preparation when storms were still far out to sea. It has also allowed for earlier stockpiling of supplies including things needed to restore power. Past experience has changed the policy of emergency centers so that now families are allowed to bring their domestic pets with them. Early declarations by Governors of States of Emergency provided for more rapid Federal funding. The National Guard has also been deployed from states far away — as when Indiana Governor Holcomb authorized the Indiana National Guard to assist in Florida.
All kinds of things are needed by those who are in harm’s way or who are picking up the pieces from what has already happened. At the same time as these monster hurricanes, let’s also remember those in other parts of the country that are facing massive outbreaks of wild fires — including many of the western states: California, Washington, Montana, Idaho and Colorado. Donations of money, supplies, blood continue to be needed. Gifts of time are also critical from emergency trained volunteers and from those willing to be trained, in addition to those specialists who will tackle things medical, infrastructure, and the allocation of resources. But something else is needed too.
Prayer is needed. We need to join our voices with those of goodwill across this great land of ours. I can think of a variety of things to pray for — perhaps you will think of more. I believe that we should pray that this time of trial is brief. I would ask that our divisions and hearts be healed as we offer help to those in need. For those who have never before turned to God in prayer, or who have turned away from prayer over the years, I would ask that God be merciful and hear their prayers surrounding them with healing and forgiveness. I believe that we also need to pray for our civic leaders including President Trump, our governors, and mayors, and all those working to get money, equipment, resources in place to help with the toll of these storms and fires. I would pray for the safety of our first responders, for the smart science of our weather predictors, and for all those who have been able to help in the recovery. If such prayers are too much for you, take courage in the book of Romans 8:26 which reads:
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.