The College Hurricane Experience

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. — No one in Florida was prepared for a storm as sudden and as harsh as this, hence why there was a call for a state evacuation.  This may have been somewhat of the norm for Florida natives who have witnessed the severity of tropical hurricanes before, but to a young girl from northern New Jersey with her family back home and all alone, it was overwhelming to say the least.  “This was the first time in the university’s history that campus has been evacuated… But the school took too long to cancel classes, making it hard for us to realize how serious Hurricane Irma actually was,” Elyse Waterman, junior at University of Miami studying Journalism, Photography, and Public Relations said.  This resulted in it being extremely difficult for Waterman to get a flight back home so last minute. 

Last Tuesday, she entered panic mode with the entirety of the school as she tried to find any flight she could to get out of Florida.  Waterman said, “I tried every airline in Florida at every airport, but they were all sold out. People were in a state of panic.”  Out of options, Waterman “decided to book a hotel room at the Hyatt in downtown Georgia, and bring a few friends and make the drive up” since Hurricane Irma wouldn’t be as bad farther north.  But this plan quickly fell through once Waterman’s friends all split in their own separate directions when better opportunities arose.  Feeling desperate and helpless, Waterman resulted to social media and posted a Facebook status explaining her predicament. The status said, “I need to leave Florida ASAP due to the Hurricane but I cannot get on a flight home. I am going to drive to New Jersey, but the drive is 19 hours without stops. If anyone can accommodate me on my trip home and let me stay with them as I pass through certain states, please please message me.” She got positive feedback from friends and family and even found a friend to travel with her… until that friend bailed while Waterman was on her way to pick her up.  Waterman was now convinced that she would be stuck in the middle of a category 5 (at the time) hurricane with no friends or protection. The school didn’t even do anything to help. Luckily, Waterman’s friend who lives in Canada came to the rescue, finding Waterman a flight back to New Jersey with a lay over in North Carolina for last Thursday. The flight “cost $1,492.80 but there was no time to think. She put it in her cart, and I gave her my credit card information.”

Elyse Waterman (bottom) and friend last spring semester

Here in the north east, colleges and college students already have their weekends, holiday breaks, and events thoroughly planned and accounted for in regards to the current semester.  They’re following strict syllabi and are well into classes… But move all the way down south into the areas of Florida stricken by Hurricane Irma last week and Waterman explained how college became a whole different ball game.  Waterman, says, “Classes were originally cancelled until Monday September 18th, but now they have been cancelled until Monday, September 25th. This means that our fall break is cancelled and to make up for missed class time, classes will continue to be held through December 20th.”

Elyse Waterman (middle) and friends earlier this semester

Fortunately, throughout the storm, Waterman was able to be home and stay in as much contact with friends from Miami as possible.  She is still unaware of the damage done to the campus, her car, or her belongings.

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