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Wilma's aftermath

Food distributed in Yucatan, Florida power is restored

Thanks to Hurricane Wilma, Jesus Munoz has become his neighborhood's barbecue king.

The Miramar, Fla., Church member originally dug the backyard pit so he could grill steaks and Colombian delicacies when friends came over for parties. But after Wilma left much of south Florida without power for several days, Brother Munoz's barbecue pit became the family kitchen.

"We had to use it to cook rice, everything," he said. "No electricity. We lost everything from our refrigerators."

With the recent restoration of electrical power to much of Florida's Broward and Dade counties, Brother Munoz is again cooking indoors as life slowly gets back to normal for hurricane-weary Church members.

"Things are coming back together, finally," said President Stephen Thompson of the Fort Meyers Florida Stake.

Traffic remained a mess in many areas as power was being restored from one intersection to the next, he added. Gridlock aside, drivers might simply be relieved to be behind the wheel of a vehicle filled with gasoline. For several days, power outages rendered gas pumps inoperable, making it nearly impossible for many to go to work. Schools were closed and most members living in the Ft. Lauderdale-Miami region went two weeks without Sunday Church services.

Power kept some meetinghouses closed, while other local priesthood leaders opted to cancel their meetings because of the gas issues, President Thompson said.

All meetinghouses were expected to be in operation for the Nov. 6 sacrament meetings and classes.

Following Hurricane Wilma, the Church dispatched a dozen truckloads of emergency supplies to impacted areas. A pair of temporary storehouses were set up in the Fort Lauderdale area to serve the needs of members and other folks in need.

"Only a few members had roof damage, two families in our stake were displaced," President Thompson said, adding that most were "fairly well prepared" for Wilma. Brother Munoz said he had sufficient provisions prior to the storm's arrival, but still appreciated the phone calls from his bishop checking to make sure he and his family were well.

Meanwhile, local priesthood and welfare leaders in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula were working to meet the immediate and long-term needs of members victimized by Wilma along the country's southeast coastline.

Two LDS meetinghouses in the Yucatan sustained substantial damage and some 80 families sought refuge in the Church building in Cozumel. A reported 20 tons of food was shipped to the Cancun area as part of the Church's initial response, according to reports drafted by Elder Levi Ontiveros, Mexico South Area Welfare Manager.

There the food and other provisions were reportedly sorted and distributed at a Cancun meetinghouse functioning as a provisional bishops' storehouse.

As stores were being replenished throughout the Yucatan, the Church response was likely being shifted to the long-term employment need of members. Hurricane Wilma has staggered the region's popular tourist industry that employs many Church members.

E-mail to: jswensen@desnews.com