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Hurricane Irene damages Carolina congregations

New York, Pennsylvania churches suffer flooding, but Vermont congregations spared.
By Donald E. Skinner
9.5.11

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Hurricane Irene

A massive hurricane barreled up the East Coast on Aug. 27 and 28. (NASA/NOAA)

Several Unitarian Universalist congregations suffered damage from Hurricane Irene last week. The most serious damage was to the UU Fellowship of New Bern, N.C., which lost much of its roof to the storm and had subsequent water damage as a result.

The UU Congregation of the Outer Banks, at Kitty Hawk, N.C., lost its sign in the storm.

The First Unitarian Society of Westchester, in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., had three to four inches of water throughout most of its building, and additional water in the basement. President April Castoldi said most valuables were put up out of harm’s way before the storm. Damage is primarily to carpets, other furnishings, and possibly to the basement furnace.

The BuxMont UU Fellowship in Warrington, Pa., had two to three inches of water in its lower level from a flooding creek. Damaged were four religious education classrooms, the RE office, bathrooms, and a gallery space.

“We knew this would probably happen, so many volunteers put everything up off the floors Friday night and did some rough and ready engineering outside to attempt to direct water away from the building,” said BuxMont Director of Religious Education DawnStar Sarahs-Borchelt. “Thanks to their hard work, the only permanent damage seems to be to the carpets in three rooms.”

In Vermont, where many communities were isolated by rising waters and there was major flooding, no damage was reported to UU congregational buildings. “We had minor reports,” said the Rev. Mary Higgins, district executive of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Northern New England District. “A little water in basements and belfries, things like that. We feel very blessed.”

Many congregations from the Carolinas to New England cancelled services and other events from Aug. 27-29. Many areas were without power for days and travel was hampered by downed trees and power lines and by flooding.

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