VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — When we made the decision to move from Chicago to Virginia Beach, Va., we knew that we were making a trade of nasty snowstorms to beautiful beaches. The other thing we had an idea about was that there was the potential of tropical storms and hurricanes. Well, we lived through the nor’easter last year, which was bad, and this year was our time to experience a hurricane.
After living through Hurricane Irene, which I know was not as bad as predicted for the most part, I have a newfound respect for Mother Nature. I also have a very firm testimony that being prepared is more than just a nice Boy Scout motto.
My family and I made every effort possible to be prepared for this hurricane. A big reason for our major preparation was that we have seen in the short time we have lived here that there are many who do not prepare. For whatever reason, they feel that preparation is not important and that they will just figure out things when they need to. The problem is that many to those same people make the news for all the wrong reasons.
Although this hurricane was not as bad as many predicted, the reality is that there were a few lives lost for a variety of reasons, quite a bit of damage done by falling trees and flooding. As we drove around to see what was happening and what did happen, it was amazing to see some of the destruction that the wind and rain from the hurricane did.
It was interesting to see how one tree could be completely uprooted while the trees around it looked like nothing happened to them. The amount of water in many places was simply amazing, and it just seemed to continue to increase with the storm surges and continual rain.
Leading up to the hurricane, there was quite a bit of pre-game action. The rain hit us early, and the wind made its presence known. We were glued to the TV, watching every report we could to know what we should be watching for. Our boys just could not believe that this was all that was being talked about on every channel here locally.
We needed to venture out a couple of times just prior to the actual heart of the hurricane hitting us to unload an 18-wheeler full of emergency supplies from the church. This was a wonderful opportunity to see how well prepared the church was as the truck was only ordered at 9 p.m. Friday by two of the local church stake presidents and arrived Saturday at noon. As we returned home, we could really see that flooding was going to be an issue. We had to drive slowly in some areas as the water was up to the bottom of our car door.
Then we just waited, but something interesting happened. We were all calm. The reason we felt so calm was that we felt prepared. We had our generator ready, our water, battery radio (which we did have to use), nonperishable food items, flashlights, a spot in the house to hide should we need it and prayer.
As we watched the news on TV and all the updates, there was one point that they said, "Officials have stated that if you have not evacuated at this time, it is too late, please just stay within your location until the hurricane has passed." My wife and I looked at each other and then said to the boys, well, we decided to stay here so that we could help others if needed, we have prepared, and we will be okay.
It is hard to describe exactly what it is like to literally sit and wait for a hurricane to arrive, but that is what we did for most of the day Saturday. The anticipation can drive you a little crazy. We passed the time by reading, playing games and taking mini walks outside to see what was happening.
One of the positive side effects of this preparation was the ability for me, as a branch president, to stay in contact with members and other leaders. I was less worried about what we needed to do because we had already done it. During the actual heart of the hurricane, we could hear the wind howl. There were times we thought for sure a tree would fall on the house, but that never happened. The rain came and there was extensive flooding in a number of areas. Power outages were another big problem and happened in a number of areas within the state.
Although a number of church meetings were canceled Sunday because of road conditions and the potential threat of this hurricane, there was one church service that I attended. Something one of the leaders said really made quite an impact on me. Bishop Karl Williams from the Salem Ward said, "Brothers and sisters, you are where you are supposed to be right now. Many are out cleaning up and trying to utilize this beautiful sunny day, but you have made the decision to be here, to worship the Lord. You will be blessed for this decision. It would be nice to clean up the leaves, but it is nicer that you are here today at church."
I guess this made such an impact because he was right. We all prepared for a horrible hurricane, but we all faired pretty well. It would be fine to leave the branches and limbs to clean up another day. A lesson learned for me was that there is no such thing as overpreparation. In fact, anything but your best efforts in preparation can leave you just short enough for something to go wrong that you were not ready for.
We knew that moving to this part of the country we would encounter many different types of natural elements. That said, we experienced a 5.9 earthquake and a Category 1 hurricane within the same week. I am not sure we expected all that. However, we came through safe and better for having gone through this experience.
The fact of the matter is that we really have just begun hurricane season, and we most likely will encounter a couple of other potential threats. Thanks to Hurricane Irene, we are now prepared for all of her brothers, sisters and cousins. We are thankful for our safety and are even more thankful for a church that teaches us on a regular basis that being prepared is crucial as we may not know when we are needed or how we are needed.
Seth Saunders is president of the Pembroke Spanish Branch of the Virginia Beach Stake in Virginia and a founding board member of The Pink Shoe Hero Foundation. He has been married 15 years to his amazing wife, Amber, and is the father of three sons.