WASHINGTON (CNS) – It is too early to tell the extent of the damage in the Catholic dioceses of Venice and St. Petersburg in Florida following a direct hit on September 28 by Hurricane Ian, one of the most powerful hurricanes the state has ever seen.
However, organizations such as Catholic Charities USA said they have their response teams in place to deal with the aftermath of the massive Category 4 storm that battered west and central Florida with winds of over 155 mph on September 28 and 29.
Even in a state accustomed to violent storms, Ian’s destruction managed to shock, leaving memories of his might in the form of wind- and water-battered cars left floating in the flooded streets of the city next door. uprooted trees and parts of roofs torn from buildings in the cities of Fort Myers, Tampa and Punta Gorda.
The dioceses that include these areas have closed their churches, schools and other gathering centers. The Diocese of Venice released a video of the Sisters Servants of the Virgin of Matara on September 28 as volunteers helped put up windows at St. Michael’s Church in Wauchula, in the northern part of the diocese.
There were no updates on social media or on the websites of these dioceses as of the start of September 29.
Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of St. Petersburg, which includes Tampa, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice had asked for prayers, knowing their diocesan territories were in the crosshairs of the storm.
Other U.S. bishops watched the hurricane and offered solidarity with the people of Florida.
“We pray for all Florida residents, especially for the lives of those affected,” Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio wrote on Twitter just before the hurricane made landfall. “May you, Lord, be their strength! We don’t control everything. »
More than 2.5 million people were left without power as the hurricane, downgraded to a tropical storm at the start of September 29, tracked north toward Georgia, North Carolina and Carolina from South. Family members have desperately posted on Twitter asking for updates on conditions in places like Venice, near where the storm made landfall and where many remain without communication.
Authorities began surveying the damage early September 29, looking for those who failed to leave before the hurricane hit, but so far no fatalities have been reported. They asked those who remained at home to stay indoors as officials carried out water rescues but still struggled to make their way amid the debris and remaining flooding and wind.
Catholic Charities USA said in a statement that its disaster response teams “have a long history of quickly mobilizing to meet the needs of those affected by catastrophic events in the United States and its territories.”
The organization encouraged donations at https://ccusa.online/Ian for efforts to help those facing the storm’s destruction.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Sept. 28 that recovery efforts need financial assistance and asked people to refrain from sending items, such as clothing, to Florida and send economic aid or volunteer work instead.
He also said he asked President Joe Biden for a major disaster declaration to have the federal government pay for recovery efforts in the state.