September 17, 2004

Ivan Hits Grads in Grenada

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As Hurricane Ivan slammed into the small Caribbean island of Grenada last Tuesday, Frederica Pichel ’98 was left struggling to survive the storm with other St. George University medical students.

Hurricane Ivan, which according to the Earth Observatory of NASA reached a rare category five hurricane status while ravaging through the Caribbean, was “fast and quick at first, then long and destructive,” in the eyes of Frederica. Frederica, an Agriculture and Life Sciences alumna, was in Grenada throughout the course of the hurricane and witnessed its devastating effects. As a second year medical student at St. George’s University of Medicine and a licensed RN, Frederica chose not to evacuate but decided to stay to help with the aftermath of “Ivan the Terrible.”

“We covered our heads with sheets and pillows and huddled in the middle of lecture halls. We saw the water [rain] coming, and soon doors were being torn off their hinges as the ceiling began to collapse with the weight of the water.” Frederica added that “our outlooks were bleak. We wanted to believe that this wasn’t really happening.”

Frederica’s husband Aaron Pichel ’85, who resides in Ithaca, said, “My wife wasn’t that worried. But after she heard the seriousness in my voice, she began to cry and become scared,” after a phone conversation last Tuesday between the two immediately before the storm hit.

On St. George’s campus there was some damage, especially to the church, however it was not nearly as extensive as the damage to the primitive architecture of the rest of the island. According to a BBC article from yesterday, Ivan caused 37 deaths and left two-thirds of Grenada’s population homeless.

“From what I have heard and from what Frederica has said, they are treating a lot of wounded and there are about 80,000 or so people homeless — and in a country that is not much bigger than Tompkins County, that’s a lot,” Aaron said.

Relief efforts in Grenada began almost immediately after the storm. Since most of the country consists of wooden buildings and above ground electrical poles, Frederica said that she, along with other students who didn’t evacuate, are focusing their efforts on the roofs and general clean-up. “We serve meals on campus to over 800 people twice a day,” she added.

A relief fund has been set up for Grenada by St. George’s University of Medicine and can be viewed at their website, Items in particular need are tarps, antibiotics and potable water. Although Ivan has since been downgraded, according to USA Today, there are still warnings along 420 miles of United States shore. Ivan touched down Thursday on the Gulf Coast and decimated the Florida panhandle, killing 20 people, according to Yahoo News.Weather officials warn that even though Ivan is now a tropical storm, he could still dump up to 15 inches of rain on a south that is still soggy from Frances and Charley. The worst is yet to come however, as another hurricane — Jeanne is on its way.

Looking back and reflecting on her experience, Frederica commented on how so many people take their lives for granted: “Life is very unpredictable. Be prepared but, things will and can change in a split second.”

Archived article by Stephanie Wickham
Sun Contributor