Merced Pastor Offers Church as a Sanctuary from the Storm

Merced, CA, USA Kenny Flaming and his family survived hurricane Katrina, and now they're helping their community cope with Gustav. Kenny's mother and step-father who live in Merced say they're proud of the entire family but still concerned about their safety.

Joyce and Charles Wilson are keeping a close eye on the eye of the storm.

Joyce Wilson: "It's hard being so far away and not knowing what's going on there."

Joyce's son Kenny Flaming lives an hour north of New Orleans in the town of Covington, Louisiana with his wife and daughters. Action news first met the flaming family in 2005 after hurricane Katrina devastated their community. At that time, the pastor and his wife opened up their church to help people in need. But they made the difficult decision to send their three girls to Merced to live with their grandparents for more than a month.

Rebekah Flaming: "My mom was crying. She didn't want us to go, but she knew we needed to go."

But as Gustav approached, the family chose to stay together and once again offer the church as a sanctuary from the storm.

Charles Wilson: "To be able to stay and go through it again takes a lot of courage."

The Wilsons say it's been difficult to reach their family by phone, but Kenny has sent several emails.

"92,000 people are without power in southeast Louisiana, we're still O.K."

The updates provide a sense of comfort for the concerned couple and the young neighbor who became friends with the flaming girls during their stay in Merced.

Sierra Carrillo: "I'm hoping that they're safe."

Joyce wishes her whole family was out of harm's way, but says she understands, and even admires their devotion.

Joyce: "The community as a whole sticks together, and they certainly stick together as a family. And they've done awesome, I'm just really proud of them."

We were able to speak to Kenny Flaming briefly late Monday afternoon, and he told us several trees were toppled in his town, but overall the damage was not nearly as bad as during Katrina.

He also says the entire community was much more prepared this time around.


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