Volunteer ministers deployed across Tampa bay to bring help and relief
No LimitsDevastating Storm, Dedicated Response
Hurricane Irma was among the largest and most brutal hurricanes in recorded history. Its 175 mph Category 5 fury shredded towns and cities along the north coast of Cuba and ravaged Caribbean islands into sandbars. Then on September 9, 2017, the monster storm turned its 30-mile-wide eye toward South Florida—first flirting with Miami, and then edging west—with Tampa Bay squarely in its sights. The mass of Irma was bigger than Florida itself! Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for all Florida, then ordered nearly 7 million people in Florida “to leave—not tonight, not in an hour, right now.” Hurricane Irma arrived in the Florida Keys with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph and, after completely covering Everglades City, Chokoloskee, Goodland and parts of Naples with deep seawater taller than any pro basketball player, she headed north, spewing 100 mph-plus winds across the Tampa Bay area. Despite widespread destruction in her wake, Hurricane Irma’s silver lining lies in those human beings who, by working together, began astounding disaster relief and repaired communities Irma devastated, making them stronger and more unified. This is the story of one such group—Volunteer Ministers of the Church of Scientology.
9 september / 3:00 pmPreparing the Shelters
Volunteer Ministers launched out to shelters across Pinellas and Pasco Counties, delivering hygiene kits, water and food, many spending the sleepless night assisting shelter staff.
9 september / 9:30 PMBoarding Up
As Hurricane Irma did a slow mambo along Cuba, Volunteer Ministers wasted no time boarding up and securing downtown Clearwater business windows, working through the night as the storm suddenly angled toward Tampa Bay.
11 september / 2:00 Am - 11:00 amIrma Hits Tampa Bay Area
Packing winds of nearly 100 mph, Irma touches down in Tampa Bay, tearing apart trees and hurling about anything it could grasp.
11 september / 10:00 amNo Time to Waste
After the Hurricane passed, Volunteer Ministers surveyed downtown Clearwater and surrounding neighborhoods for damage. They found miserable people everywhere, many with power gone, starving for a hot meal, desperate and depressed. They noted major roads smothered impassable with trees and Irma debris covering Clearwater Beach, Coachman Park, City Hall, the Pinellas County Courthouse and Morton Plant Hospital, as well as private residences.
12 september / 1:00 pmStability in the Absence of Power
Some 1.2 million residences lost power as Duke Energy—which services Pinellas—struggled to restore the grid. Those without working phones, air conditioning, coolers or even ice faced an unbearable combination of heat exhaustion and hunger—days without a hot meal—absolutely hopeless in the face of no apparent relief … until the VMs set up daily ice and water distribution points in North Greenwood and East Gateway, providing complimentary food trucks and water until power was restored completely, more than a week later.
13 September / 11:00 amGetting the Job Done
By the third day of the week’s hurricane relief, teams of Volunteer Ministers had fired out to hardest-hit neighborhoods such as North Greenwood and East Gateway, while hundreds of others were responding to individual calls for help. Teams of yellow shirts could be seen across the region, removing fallen trees, filling over 7,000 trash bags with debris, delivering hygiene items, ice, anything anyone needed.