Johnny Milano / The New York Times

Hurricane Florence floods homes in North Carolina.

September 18, 2018

Students Affected by Hurricane Florence Share Stories, Fears

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Hurricane Florence hit close to home for some Cornell students, who shared their experiences with the once-category four storm that has now been downgraded to a tropical depression.

The storm has already claimed the lives of 35 people in storm-related incidents in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, according to CBS News. Towns in North Carolina have seen upwards of 30 inches of rain as of Tuesday at 5 a.m.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, the family of Aziza Henry ’21 braced for the storm by stocking up on necessities like batteries.

“Before the storm came, everyone was under the assumption that it would be a category four [hurricane] hitting inland,” she said. “My mom made emergency plans for where they would hide if it got really bad.”

Rachel George ’21 expressed her frustration with climate policy in North Carolina as it relates to disaster preparedness. Although damage to her town, Cary, North Carolina, has been minimal, much of the state has been affected.

“It’s really sad because for the longest time North Carolina legislature has not pushed as strongly for climate policy and a lot of North Carolina, especially in 2012 and 2013 deemed climate science to be really extreme,” she told The Sun.

“If more was done to look at the science and see ‘okay yes, there is the effect of climate change on the North Carolina coast’, then maybe more could have been done in terms of preparing for Hurricane Florence,” she added.

George described the worst of the damage as some fallen trees in her neighborhood, as well as school delays for her younger siblings.

“A lot of North Carolina has been hit, and it has been absolutely devastating to hear because you never think it will be your home until one day you wake up and it is,” she said. “So far, my family back home has been okay.”

Kierra Grayson ’19 is from Beaufort, South Carolina, a small coastal town that was greatly affected by hurricanes last year. Hurricane Florence, however, did not hit her area as badly as was projected.

“Luckily it wasn’t as strong as it was projected to be in my area. The biggest stress came from the week leading up to the hurricane,” she wrote in an email to the Sun. “With all the changes in direction that the storm took, it was hard to know if evacuation was mandatory or even necessary.”

Since Grayson is currently abroad, she has had to deal with timezones and connectivity issues in trying to reach her family and hear updates.

“It’s just stressful not knowing if your family is going to be okay while you’re completely fine and realizing that you’re actually powerless,” she said. “Everyone is like ‘oh did your family evacuate’ but that’s expensive and frankly leaving is the easy part. It’s the coming back to the possibility of needing to rebuild [that is hard].”

Last year, after deeming Cornell’s resources insufficient, Grayson’s sorority decided to do a hurricane relief drive to provide support for those affected.

“Actually last year there was the trifecta of Hurricane[s] Irma, Harvey, and Maria that occurred pretty quickly after each other. Irma hit at home and caused a lot of flooding, power outages and mandatory evacuations,” she said.

“Cornell didn’t provide any support but instead of focusing on what they wouldn’t do, I decided to organize a hurricane relief drive with my chapter (Mu Gamma Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc) and the rest of the Divine 9 organizations on campus,” she added.

Vijay Pendakur, dean of students, stated in an email to The Sun that Cornell is monitoring the impact and referenced resources the University has to provide for students who may be affected.

“As is the case with all large-scale natural disasters, Cornell University is monitoring very closely for any potential impact this event may have on students, faculty and staff,” Pendakur wrote.

“At this time, we urge any member of the Cornell community who may be affected by Hurricane Florence to take advantage of the resources available to help during this or any other natural disaster or crisis situation,” he continued.