SALT LAKE CITY — For the second time in less than three weeks, the LDS Church is taking steps to help its members and missionaries prepare for a hurricane of historic proportions.
On Aug. 25, Hurricane Harvey became the first hurricane to reach landfall in the United States in a dozen years. The Category 4 storm packing 130-mph winds and drenching rains as it hovered over southeast Texas and southwestern Louisiana.
Wednesday, the Category 5 Hurricane Irma reached landfall in the Caribbean with 185-mph winds, with Florida, Georgia and South Carolina in its projected path.
"As this serious hurricane has approached the Caribbean and continues in its path west and north, we have taken important steps to prepare," said Doug Andersen, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"Members and missionaries have been given instruction on seeking shelter, gathering food and water and preparing for the days ahead. As necessary, missionaries have been or will be moved to other locations.
"As it has for other disasters, the Church is monitoring this situation closely and preparing to respond with relief and recovery efforts as soon as possible," Anderson added. "During this critical time, the people of these regions are in our thoughts and prayers."
Irma is already one of the strongest storms in terms of wind speed on record in the Atlantic. It hit the Lesser Antilles and Virgin Islands with full force and began pummelling Puerto Rico, although the storm's actual center passed just north of the island territory.
Houston and southeastern Texas are still in recovery mode from the flooding, damage and debris there in Harvey's wake. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the LDS Church's First Presidency visited Houston over the weekend, and the church has asked for patience and help in its response efforts there.
Created in 2006, the Caribbean Area includes all the island nations and territories in the Caribbean sea as well as Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname in northern South America.
The area is home to eight LDS Church missions, with three missions headquartered in the Dominican Republic — the Santiago, Santo Domingo East and Santo Domingo West missions. The five others are the Barbados Bridgetown, Haiti Port-au-Prince, Jamaica Kingston, Puerto Rico San Juan and Trinidad Port of Spain missions.
Also located in the Caribbean Area are the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple and the Dominican Republic Missionary Training Center. The Dominican Republic has 20 LDS stakes, with five stakes in Puerto Rico, four in Haiti and one each in Jamaica and Trinidad as well as districts and regions organized throughout the area.