Hurricane Irma Devastates St. Thomas

Date Posted: 
Thursday, September 7, 2017

Damage at Mahogany Run Condos in St. Thomas. Photo by Robin Marsella

Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, is leaving a trail of destruction as it crosses the Caribbean. 

On Wednesday, September 6, St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands took a direct hit from Irma, which struck as a category five hurricane. Jeff Neevel, pastor of St. Thomas Reformed Church, reports that winds were clocked at 185 miles per hour on the island. The island sustained severe damage according to initial reports, with many buildings flooded. Some lost roofs, and others collapsed outright. The local hospital, Schneider Regional Medical Center, suffered catastrophic failure.

At St. Thomas Reformed, the church structures received no major damage, with just minor flooding in one area, Neevel said. The parsonage sustained damage to the roof, as well as flooding in the basement and upstairs after a storm window blew in. Communication is limited because cell phone service is down, so Neevel does not yet know how hard members of the congregation were hit by the storm.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Neevel wrote, “The church is closed up tight, but only as long as Irma hangs around…then the doors will be open again along with our hearts ready to serve.”

The island of St. Croix, where St. Croix Reformed Church is located, is 40 miles south of St. Thomas and largely avoided damage. RCA Global Mission has also been in contact with mission partners in the Dominican Republic and Cuba, who are safe.

Global Mission continues to track the storm’s progression. “We know there has been significant damage in St. Thomas, and we fear there is significant damage still to come,” Scott Engelsman, disaster response coordinator for the RCA, said from Houston, where he has been assessing needs related to Hurricane Harvey. “Hurricane Irma came fast on the heels of Hurricane Harvey, but the needs could be just as great.”

How You Can Help

Pray. Pray for Hurricane Irma to lessen in intensity or spin off into the Atlantic without further landfall. Pray for safety for the people who are still in its path, both during evacuation and the storm. Pray for people whose homes have been destroyed or damaged by the hurricane. Pray for families who have lost loved ones. Pray for first responders who are already assessing needs and finding ways to meet them. Pray for the resources to rebuild homes and cities. Pray that RCA churches are able to tangibly share God’s love with people going through loss and uncertainty.

Give. Your financial contribution will support long-term recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Donate at www.rca.org/irma, or send a check, designated “Hurricane Irma,” to Reformed Church in America, Attn: Finance Dept., 4500 60th St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49512, or, in Canada, to Regional Synod of Canada, 201 Paradise Rd. N., Hamilton ON L8S 3T3.

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