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Congregations, agencies experience damage, power loss, but still help

In the days after the wind storm, The Fig Tree contacted congregations and agencies about their experiences and responses.  Some had damage.  Some had trees fall nearby, creating a mess but no structural damage.  Many lost power.  Some found creative ways to reach out to their neighbors. Many opened their homes to friends, family and others.

Manito youth visit neighbors.

Manito United Methodist youth visited neighbors

The day after the November 2015 wind storm in the Inland Northwest, nine youth from the Manito United Methodist Church youth group went door-to-door to check on people at risk, hand out candles and cocoa, and help with yard work for people near the church and in Southeast Central Spokane.

Meeting the afternoon after the wind storm, they gave out about 50 taper and tea light candles to people with no power.

“Taper candles were partially burned from worship services,” said the pastor, Mark McMurray. 

“It wasn’t huge,” he said, “but for people sitting in apartments in the dark, having someone give them a candle and matches was appreciated.”

There was no electricity at the church when the youth came.  They barbecued hamburgers for dinner over the grill, eating the meat before it thawed.

Manito UMC also offered rides to people for hot breakfast and lunch at Ferris High School.

For information, call 570-3938.

Programs linked volunteers with needs

windstorm near Roosevelt School

Ann Marie Byrd, development director at Catholic Charities Spokane, said they received calls from volunteers offering services and from clients with needs. 

“We helped match volunteers with people in need, and encouraged people to go to, through which United Way and the City of Spokane connected volunteers with people in need,” she said.

Catholic Charities, which opened warming centers at the House of Charity and St. Margaret’s, continued to provide its usual services.  St. Ann’s was shut one day.  When it reopened, it welcomed older siblings of children registered because schools were closed.

“More than 180,000 people spent the night in the dark in their homes, feeling  vulnerable, feeling the chill of winter, and hoping for quick restoration of normal life,” said Rob McCann, director of Catholic Charities.

“What if that level of fear and uncertainty was your normal? What if you spent many nights in a cold home without electricity and not enough food to eat? What if you had no family or friends to turn to when you needed to be welcomed? The people we serve know these circumstances too well,” he said. “Catholic Charities brings hope and dignity to people in our community whose lives have become a storm of unfortunate circumstances.”

Volunteer Spokane reported volunteer efforts throughout the city. They appealed for such supplies as candles, flashlights, batteries, chain saws and generators.

VOA programs continue to serve people in need

Crosswalk and Hope House programs never lost power, so both took in extra people. 

Power was out at their low-income and senior apartments, so VOA brought daily deliveries of food and coffee. 

Alexandria House had no power, so residents went to friends and families.

Residents of one VOA veterans’ home that lost power went to the home that had power.

The low-income, disabled housing unit had power but sustained roof damage. The Thrift Store was down a few days.

URM gives thawing food to Union Gospel Mission

URM Cash and Carry took a difficult situation and blessed others. Their freezers went out with the power outage, and they gave the food to the Union Gospel Mission nearby across Trent Ave. and the Spokane River from them.

Phones, internet were off so Episcopal Diocese used Facebook

Power was out at Paulsen House, which houses the Episcopal Diocese. High winds uprooted a 100-year-old balsam tree, leaving limbs and debris on the property, said Bishop Jim Waggoner, Jr. 

With no phone or email, staff communicated by Facebook, said communications director Cate Wetherald. 

She said the West Central Episcopal Mission opened to serve neighbors and invited people whose frozen food might spoil to donate it to the mission.

“As we offer prayers and stand ready to respond, we remember those without heat, sustenance and resources for communication and recovery,” said Jim, encouraging those with power to offer neighbors a place to warm up and recharge.

Red Cross set  up shelters

Warming centers set up in schools

The American Red Cross in the Greater Inland Northwest opened a shelter at 11 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 18, at the Girl Scouts facility, 1404 N. Ash St. Beds, meals and electricity were available.  People could bring their small pets, if they had cages.

Other shelters were open at Valley Assembly of God, 15618 E. Broadway, and Cheney United Methodist Church, 204 4th St.

Residents going to shelters were to bring sheets, clothing, personal items, prescriptions, diapers and baby items. Nurses were available to help with medical issues.

Valley Assembly of God invited anyone without power to come to the building during the day for warmth and recharging. On Facebook, they recruited people to help with tree removal, roof repairs and other cleanup.

“Let’s demonstrate love by action,” they said.

Coeur d’Alene had shelters

In Coeur d’Alene, a Red Cross shelter was set up at Coeur d’ Alene Bible Church, 5350 N. 4th.  

The Kootenai Humane Society temporarily sheltered dogs.

Real Life Ministries in Post Falls helped shelter some folk and assisted others with food, cutting wood and other needs.

Kaleidoscope Community Services moved some people who lost trailers into motel rooms.

Lake City Community Church in Coeur d’Alene helped people through its food bank. 

Mike Bullard of the Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters posted an emergency citizen’s inquiry number: 208-446-2292.

Churches opened buildings

Several Spokane area churches that did not sustain damage or lose power, opened their doors all day for neighbors to come in for warmth, coffee, meals, charging electronic devices and a place for children to play.  Among them were Veradale United Church of Christ, First Presbyterian, Audubon Park United Methodist and Life Center.

“People came,” said Kristi Burns of Life Center.

Audubon Park also offered showers, and provided an overnight stay for one family, referring others to warming shelters.

Agencies form COAD

The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints and the Seventh Day Adventists are working together with Spokane Emergency Services and others through Community Organizations Active in Disasters (COAD) to support local schools that opened as warming shelters and provide meals. 

“Our Bishop’s Storehouse also provided 6,000 canned foods at the warming centers and the Adventist Better Living Center food pantry,” said David Ross. “Many of our young missionaries have helped and will continue to assist in the warming centers.  Many members are helping cut trees and remove storm debris throughout the community.”

Colfax churches help

On Thursday, Colfax Baptist Church offered a warming center, and the United Methodist Church served a free community meal.

All Saints served its meal

Even though power went off at 4 p.m., Tuesday, the food was prepared for the weekly 5 p.m. dinner at All Saints Lutheran Church. “We opened early and fed about 60 folks by candlelight and distributed what we could,” said Alan Eschenbacher, the pastor.  “There was no physical damage to the building. Power was still off as of noon Thursday.”

Because power was still out on Sunday, they and other Lutheran churches without power encouraged members to go to Salem Lutheran Church.

Second Harvest held Tom’s Turkey Drive

As Second Harvest geared up for Tom’s Turkey Drive, the windstorm and power outages meant three Rosauer’s stores were closed.  Two reopened and the community responded, so they met the goal of raising enough to provide 11,000 Thanksgiving meals to families in need in Spokane, said Rod Wieber, chief resource officer at Second Harvest, whose facilities had no damage or power loss.

“About 1,000 fewer clients came to pick up the dinners,” he said, noting that with power out, some did not have refrigeration to store the food. Second Harvest gave 600 extra meals to the Salvation Army.

Whitworth campus lost power and many trees

Whitworth campus after windstorm

Jim McPherson, chair of the Whitworth University communication department, was back on the internet on Thursday, “writing from a building with two toppled trees on it.  The campus had downed and leaning trees everywhere, and getting through Spokane can be challenging with lots of trees in streets and non-functioning traffic lights.”

On Thursday, the Whitworth campus, which had suffered damage to buildings, and loss of power and many trees, resumed campus life while clean-up was underway, he said.



Winds damaged buildings at academy in Spangle

The near-hurricane-force winds uprooted and felled hundreds of trees and caused building damage to the Seventh-day Adventist Upper Columbia Academy in Spangle.  It also downed power-lines and caused some property damage at the Upper Columbia Conference office building of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

By three p.m. Tuesday, the storm grew so strong that Upper Columbia Conference sent staff home for safety. 

On Wednesday, Upper Columbia Academy faculty reported some trees down on campus. One went through an eave on a faculty home, but the roof was still intact.

The girl’s dorm and music building roofs suffered damage. Plastic on the campus greenhouse, a source of fresh vegetables for students, was shredded.

Classes resumed by Friday.

South Hill church had damage to live nativity

South Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church said the nativity village they had been building since mid-October suffered damage from the winds.  Three structures and the village gate, were ruined beyond repair.

Event director Nancy Engle said, “This has set us back, but we’re going to have to have a work bee the next few Sundays to be back on track to open Sunday, Dec. 4.”

The annual Journey to Bethlehem nativity pageant has been part of Spokane’s South Hill holiday festivities for nine years. It features more than 120 actors and 30 live animals. It usually draws more than 5,000 people.

“People make it part of their holiday tradition every year,” said senior pastor, Paul Blake. “We can replace damaged set pieces with rented tents. It’s about telling the story of Jesus and overcoming problems like Jesus did.”

As a labor of love, a committee of 20 prepare for the event all year.

The Journey to Bethlehem opens at 6 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4 at 57th and Freya and continues from 5 to 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 5 and 6.  For information, visit

N-Sid-Sen director reflected on power loss

Mark Boyd, managing director of the Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ camp N-Sid-Sen on the east shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene, reported the loss of power reflectively:

“Today the sky is alive with the promise of calm and yet we await the arrival of heat and light,” he said.  “I am reminded of the minor inconvenience that this is for us in the bigger picture of the world as a whole.

“For most of us, this storm will be a story to be told rather than a life to be lived as it is for so many others,” Mark said.  “So today I am grateful for temporary storms in my life.”

Hamblen spokesperson also offered a thought

“This temporary loss of electricity is minor compared to what many in our world are experiencing,” said a spokesperson for Hamblen Park Presbyterian Church in Spokane.

Conference arranged webinar for clergy

Recognizing that dramatic weather events—drought, fires, dust storms, smoke, crop failures and now wind storms—hit some areas of the Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ Conference harder than others, Conference Minister Mike Denton arranged a 90-minute webinar on secondary trauma.

Clergy, who may feel they can never do enough, may experience chronic exhaustion or diminished creativity, which can be signs of “secondary trauma” for clergy and other who care for people who are affected by traumatic events, said Mike.

Copyright © December 2015 - The Fig Tree