North Carolina Catholics prepare for Hurricane Irene’s wake

This image of Hurricane Irene was taken from the GOES 13 satellite on August 26 2011 at 140 pm EDT Credit NASA NOAA CNA US Catholic News 8 26 11 This image of Hurricane Irene was taken from the GOES-13 satellite on August 26, 2011 at 1:40 p.m. EDT. | NASA-NOAA

Catholics in North Carolina are preparing to respond to the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

“There is a great deal of praying going on right now,” Frank Morock, communications director of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, told CNA on the afternoon of Aug. 26.

People are praying that the storm “picks up speed so it moves out of the state quickly then out to sea away from the eastern metropolises.”

The size and breadth of the storm are worrying many who live in the coastal areas.

The storm made landfall Friday and lost strength from earlier projections. However, it still generated winds of almost 100 mph.

“Pastors have been provided with the contact information of the directors of the regional offices of Catholic Charities in the diocese,” Morock reported. “They will be providing reports of damage and needs in their communities.”

When it is safe for relief and rescue teams to enter affected areas, Catholic Charities staff will be on the scene. They will work with other religious and non-governmental agencies to provide “both immediate and long-term assistance” to survivors.

They will also work with the state government to help “in every way possible.”

Depending on the severity of the storm, the Diocese of Raleigh may call for a special collection in all parishes as it has done in the past with natural disasters. The money will go to Catholic Charities to provide temporary housing and food and other basic supplies where necessary.

“The faithful of the diocese, whether the disaster is in the diocese or anywhere in the world, always respond generously,” Morock said.

Hurricane Isabel, a Category 2 storm, was the last major storm to hit North Carolina. In 1999, Hurricane Floyd dumped a record amount of rain and took 35 lives.

“Outside of some minor damage such as roof leaks, trees down and minor flooding, the institutions held up quite well,” Morock recalled. “With the expected swells of Irene, some of our churches near the coastline may be more at risk this time around.”

“While the eye of the storm is expected to pass over the Outer Banks, this storm is expected to cause a great deal of wind damage and extensive flooding,” he said.

Rain may continue for at least 24 hours all the way up the coast. Inland, rain will saturate the ground and strong winds are expected to knock down trees and cause power outages.

No weekend Masses in the Diocese of Raleigh have been canceled yet, but Catholic schools in the coastal area were either closed or had a half-day of classes.

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