By JON KAWAMOTO, Wheel of Dharma Editor
The relentless series of storms that began lashing California beginning last month and continuing through 2023 — causing about 20 fatalities and widespread damage and flooding — didn’t spare the Buddhist Churches of America’s temples and churches, particularly the Watsonville Buddhist Temple.
On New Year’s Eve, hours after the temple held its year-end service, the front of the temple at 423 Bridge St. flooded, the result of a nearby levee breach. The flooding also caused a mandatory evacuation of the temple’s apartment residents and affected some Sangha members who live in the area.
Watsonville’s Hondo was left intact, but the flooding damaged the parsonage garage, and storage under the kitchen and gymnasium, according to Resident Minister Rev. Jay Hosei Shinseki.
The New Year’s Day service was canceled and many Sangha members came out on Jan. 1 to clean up the mud that seeped into the garage and storage areas and covered the entire parking lot.
“Thanks to temple members and volunteers, we were able to clean up most of the mess,” Rev. Shinseki said. “Thank you to everyone who rallied to clean up our temple.”
He also noted an act of Dana — selfless giving — from several neighbors who showed up on New Year’s Day and cleaned the front area of the temple and parsonage.
“They came from around the neighborhood without being asked,” Rev. Shinseki said. “Truly a kind and thoughtful act from our neighbors.”
In other parts of the state, Orange County Buddhist Church had to cover the Myonyo Shonin altar in plastic for its Jan. 8 Sunday service and reported some roof leaks earlier in the week, according to Resident Minister Rev. Jon Turner.
And, in Sacramento, one of the hardest-hit cities and regions, the Sacramento Betsuin had to cancel its Jan. 8 Sunday service because of a power outage and flooding in the area, Interim Rinban Rev. Matthew Hamasaki said.
“Fortunately, we did not have any actual flooding near our temple,” Rev. Hamasaki said. “We shut down because the power was out due to the weather. I’m not sure what the exact cause was, but because there would be no light as well as hazardous conditions on the road, we thought it would be safer for everyone to just stay home.”
In Santa Barbara, another area of the state that experienced widespread flooding, the Buddhist Church of Santa Barbara had no weather-related damage, and there were no reports of anyone being evacuated or having major damage to their homes.
The church did have a water leak unrelated to the storm in November that spilled about 2,000 gallons in the hallway, bathrooms, office, conference room and part of the kitchen, according to Acting President Setsuko Furuike. No major damage was reported and the church hopes to reopen by mid-March, she said.