Posts Tagged ‘hurricane’


Friday, October 7th, 2016

Matthew has come, gone, and may make another appearance later next week. Matthew has left his path of destruction behind, a bad memory for a lot of people and a challenge for us all. Like many other Floridians I watched that storm for almost ten days, always with a funny feeling that “it is the one – the big one” and for the people of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas it certainly was. For many in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, it will also be a bad memory, although we seem spared the worst of its powerful presence.

I am amazed at the ability which the National Hurricane Center possesses to warn us of the likelihood of getting to know a storm. In my lifetime we have progressed from “guess” to almost pinpoint accuracy in predicting which act of nature is likely to befall us. With their computer base and spaghetti models, the NHC called this one perfectly, if one allows for the fact that such storms have a mind of their own. Government acted as good government should and the population responded as expected (sometimes listening and acting and sometimes in either denial or rejection). Here in the states, we have the ability to react in advance. In our island nation neighbors there is no such freedom.

These words are being penned on Friday afternoon while Matthew continues to challenge northern Florida and later tonight Georgia and South Carolina. Yesterday a majority of the priests of the diocese and I finished three days together in our annual October convocation. We knew what some of the least among us would have to endure from this storm and we prayed for them.  We also resolved that we would do more than pray.

Our presenter yesterday was Carolyn Woo, the President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services. On your behalf, I presented her with a check for $250,000 to assist our brothers and sisters in the hemispheres most desperately poor nation, Haiti, as well as in the Bahamas. Even our government recognized that when it comes to disasters, CRS responds quickly, effectively and well in helping people survive, rebuild, and renew. US AID (a branch of the federal State Department) yesterday made a multi-million dollar donation of money, food and supplies to CRS and the Red Cross for help for Haiti.

As a diocese we do not have $250,000 to throw around but I simply advanced it as the pastors present for the convocation said they would appeal to their people, to you, this weekend and next in a special collection to begin to stitch together again the lives Matthew tore asunder. I hope our response might approach the $1.7 million we raised for the tsunami in the Indian Ocean a few years back or the $1.9 million we raised nine months later for Hurricane Katrina assistance. If we receive more than $250,000 in the next few weeks, we will keep an eye on the needs along our Florida and Georgia east coasts and share it with Catholic Charities USA. Here in Florida, we bishops have a disaster response program located within the Florida Catholic Conference which is being mobilized along our east coast as I write this. CRS will be present in Haiti and the Bahamas, making you proud. None of the money raised here will go to our national episcopal conference where in the recent past a portion is often used to rebuild church infrastructure but directly to Catholic Relief Services to help those people whose nearly hopeless faces appear on our TV screens tonight and in our papers and media tomorrow.

The sun will indeed come up tomorrow, for everyone in Matthew’s path, and for many, their future is a matter of our generosity. Please respond as lovingly as you have done often in the past. God bless you.



Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

“Spaghetti model” for Issac as of 5pm EST on August 23, 2012.

I suspect I have your attention!

Those of us who live along the coast of the Florida peninsula have learned a new form of spaghetti, non-edible to be sure, but equally hard to handle. I speak here of “spaghetti models” which have nothing to do with variations of ancient pasta recipes but rather squiggly lines which are produced by high speed computers which track  unpredictable variables leading to an uncertain result – or in plain English, hurricane predictors. Which leads me to “swords” and recalling the biblical story of father Abraham who was commanded by God tobuild an altar on which his one and only and long prayed for son, Isaac would be slain. As the reader knows, God stayed the sword-wielding hand of Abraham, spared his son Isaac, and fathered a great people. Well, we in Florida in general and here on the central west coast of Florida in particular are asking the Lord to spare (us from) Isaac, a tropical storm gaining intensity in the eastern Caribbean and, according to the spaghetti models, building up steam and headed toward us. And complicating the issue, we citizens of this state are not the only ones asking God to slay Isaac, but so are about 40,000 people descending on our community next week for the Republican National Convention.

What does a diocese do in the present situation by way of preparing? Pray first. Then, begin to take the proper precautions. A direct hit of a major hurricane would bring significant damage and loss to this local Church. Much of southern St. Petersburg where I live and work would be susceptible to tidal surges. We have five parishes that are at sea level (or slightly less than five feet higher). A storm surge of ten feet would do significant damage to those buildings and facilities. We are already contacting our retired priests that we know of who live alone to see if they wish to seek higher ground in which case we would encourage them to come to the Bethany Center, our diocesan retreat center. Tomorrow we will move enough cash to keep the whole diocese operating should the power be down for several days (and the banks’ computers go down). We will make plans to relocate the homeless from our Pinellas Hope facility to higher and safer ground (we are averaging about 400 a night who will need to be resettled.) We are preparing a “command center” at Bethany where I will go if the storm is higher than a category one and be joined by the principal players who will need to spring into action when the winds subside and the waters retreat. All of our parishes have had emergency storm preparation but for everyone here, we have been through this so often without a real need, that taking any of these spaghetti models seriously becomes challenging. We have become somewhat lethargic and that’s what worries the Emergency Relief Personnel where we live. Is this the big one, or is this just another “false alarm?” When, in about forty-eight hours, the spaghetti models converge and the “cone of uncertainty narrows,” we will have a better idea what to expect but then it may be too late.

I drove by a Home Depot and a Lowes on the way to work this morning and saw no great accumulation of plywood taking place nor did the supermarkets seem victims of panic, but it will happen sometime between now and Sunday, even if the storm is predicted to miss us. And then there is that haunting and unsettling reality that even if we survive another near miss, someone, somewhere else in our area of the nation is going to get hit. So join us in praying for a better result. This time, O Lord,  it is A-OK to slay Isaac and the only thing certain in my part of the vineyard is that Mitt Romney will be nominated next week – somewhere!