As I was flipping channels Monday night, I caught a live report during The Five on Fox from Florida, discussing the hurricane damage from Irma and interviewing some of the folks there. What should pop up but a shot of a Masonic lodge with its roof peeled apart. Rick Leventhal reported from Ormond Beach, just north of Daytona Beach on the East Coast:
"The storm dumped eight to 12 inches of rain here in Volusia County in a very short period of time flooding countless streets and neighborhoods like this one in low lying areas and knocking down trees and power lines leaving hundreds of thousands of people in the dark in this county alone.
But some of the locals in the neighborhood just a few miles from us in Ormond Beach say, it was a twister, a tornado that did the worst damage in this storm roaring through like a free train at about 9:30 last night, splintering trees and knocking down utility post and ripping roofs off of houses, dropping them in neighbor's yards and right in the middle of the street. We talked to some folks who hunkered down inside the Ormond Beach Masonic lodge nearby. They'd thought they'd be safe there and instead, the storms ripped the roof, the brand-new roof off the structure and had the people inside thinking that the end could be near."
"They were sitting there playing cards. The lights flickered three times and they went dead silent and all of a sudden it sounded like a bomb going off. He did two tours in Vietnam..."
"Heh. And I said how close was that to Nam just last night and he says, it ain't going to get no closer than that."Ormond Beach Lodge 326 has a website HERE and they also have a Facebook page HERE. They announced on the website before the storm hit that several members were in the area offering help, and both members and area residents were in the lodge building at the time using it as shelter. According to brother Chris Van Duyne, they have two lodges, an OES Chapter, York Rite bodies, and a Grotto that all meet there, so it's a vital Masonic link to the community. It's entirely possible, if not probable, that they still don't have power today. Sadly, I suspect that given the breadth of the hurricane with its surrounding effects, theirs won't be the only one that was hit.
I will say that as I drove north from Lexington, Kentucky on Saturday, before the storm even hit the mainland, a mile-long convoy of tree service and power trucks were already headed south to prepare for what they knew was coming.
I have not seen an official MSA Disaster Appeal for Florida yet either, but I will certainly post such an announcement if and when it comes (the Texas one is ongoing). From the sound of reports, everyone across Florida has their hands full right now, so it will undoubtedly take a while for offices to get back up and running. MSA posted last night on its Facebook page that the office of the Grand Lodge of Florida has been closed, but they have been in touch with them. After Grand Master Richard Hoover is able to evaluate the situation, he will decide if a Disaster Relief Appeal is warranted.
I am unable to find any updated online presence coming from the MW Union Grand Lodge of Florida PHA, aside from their website. Their GL offices are in Jacksonville, and that area got hit as well. If anyone wants to pass along an official Facebook link for them, please let me know.
NOTE: The Scottish Rite-SJ's Tyler's Place podcast interviewed Brother Pedro Nicot Santana in Puerto Rico and Florida's Grand Secretary, Richard Lynn on Saturday.
In the meantime, please keep all of our citizens in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and all of the other affected areas ravaged by both of these recent storms in your prayers. And if you have a lodge meeting coming up, please pass the box of fraternal assistance with them all in mind. It will be needed.
(This post has been updated as of September 13th at 1:25 PM. Thanks to those who supplied new information. More as I get it.)