Hurricane Ian: Episcopalians assess damage in Florida, South Carolina and the southeast – UPDATED

Christian Paolino posted on Facebook that “based on NOAA footage,” it appeared that the roofs of Saint Michael and All Angels Church in Sanibel, Fla. were intact but “there was ground water at the time it was shot.” Photo/NOAA

Episcopalians in southwest Florida and South Carolina continued to assess damage from last week’s Hurricane Ian

Parishes in the Diocese of Southwest Florida were trying to access their buildings and check on parishioners.

Meanwhile, Galilee Episcopal Church in Virginia Beach, Va., saw its steeple blown off by Ian’s powerful winds. It landed between the church and a neighboring apartment building.

The steeple at Galilee Episcopal Church in Virginia Beach, Va., lies between the church and a neighboring apartment building due to the powerful winds of Hurricane Ian. Nevertheless, the church held a wedding as scheduled as there was no damage to the interior. Photo/

Galilee’s rector, the Rev. Andrew Buchanan, posted on its Facebook page on Oct. 1: “We lost our steeple last night in the storm. While getting the news was distressing and disappointing, I’m very grateful that there were no injuries, no deaths, and little structural damage. I’m also grateful for the wonderful emergency team that had things in hand.

“We had a team at Galilee this morning to assess, and develop a plan to remove the steeple from where it fell. We’ll keep you posted.

“Meanwhile we have two weddings at Galilee today, and Sunday morning worship will continue tomorrow as usual. Thank you to the many who have expressed sorrow and concern–we appreciate your support and care.”

At Sanibel Island, Fla., Saint Michael and All Angels church posted on its Facebook page on Oct. 1:

“Parishioners continue to be evacuated off the island and it is a team effort by many. We have the Coast Guard and countless other agencies to thank for this service.

“Our priority today has been reaching out to our church members as our top priority to ensure everyone is safe. We had a priority list of 38 households who we thought could still be on the island. As of 10pm we are down to four households.

“We then moved on a list of over 120 parishioners in our directory who have addresses on Sanibel but we have not seen this summer. We know probably they were in other locations, but we want to ensure every single parishioner is accounted for. We sent emails to those we had addresses for and made calls to those we had cell phones for.

On Sept. 30, the church posted: “Praise God and US Coast Guard! Rescued many yesterday off of Sanibel, helicopters constantly in the air, we picked up two parishioners from a school field in north Fort Myers. What they survived was the opposite of heaven. The priority is still rescuing, we are by the hospital and helicopters just started taking off again, row of ambulances lined up from as far as Arkansas.

Although Ian impacted a wide swath of Florida, extreme damage was heavily concentrated in the Fort Myers-Cape Coral area. Barrier islands such as Sanibel were also devastated. The causeway that was the only road to Sanibel was heavily damaged by the storm.

Ian came ashore at Fort Myers on Sept. 28 as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of about 150 mph and a storm surge that left parts of the area under several feet of water. On Sept. 30, state officials said they had identified about three dozen storm-related deaths, ENS reported. 

“At this point, communication remains difficult with those in the hardest hit areas,” Bishop Coadjutor Douglas Scharf told ENS. Scharf, who was consecrated on Sept. 24, said the diocesan office was still without power and internet, but diocesan leaders had been able to reach most clergy and parish leaders in the affected areas.

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