By UM News

What a Ride

By UM News
UM students recount how they rode out the storm called Hurricane Irma.

Editor’s note: UM News asked students to tell the UM community how they dealt with the impact of Hurricane Irma. Below are their stories.

Nosa James,
sophomore, studying economics

September 25, 2017

Luis Reyes
University of Miami School of Law

September 20, 2017

Zain Abidi
University of Miami School of Law

September 20, 2017

Arantza Fernandes
University of Miami School of Law

September 20, 2017

Josh Lamonde
University of Miami School of Law

September 20, 2017

Jenna Florio
University of Miami School of Law

September 20, 2017

Nathalie Mairena
sophomore communications major

September 20, 2017

Brianna HernandezBrianna Hernandez
Senior, majoring in political science and history

September 20, 2017

We have heard so much about Hurricane Irma’s devastation this month, and we will continue to share horror stories with our friends and talk about the records she broke. The way we watch the Atlantic for the rest of the Hurricane Season will be with greater trepidation and a wary eye.

I live on Griffin Road in Hollywood/Fort Lauderdale, near the airport and marinas. Irma’s long lasting bands tore down fences and uprooted trees. Her wrath knocked out power, contaminated water, forced shutters open, and completely blocked roads in my community. Our pool turned a blackish green and the foliage in the front of our house is pretty much nonexistent now. Yet, while the storm raged outside, our house seemed to exist in the eye.

Eight people rode out the storm hunkered down in our house. Eight people with no power. Eight people who ate way too much peanut butter. Seven people that I live with and see for approximately two hours a day during the semester, if that. Irma brought chaos and sweating and devastation, but for us she also brought us together. We played board game after board game and even got my dad to try and write a haiku. There was a night where, by the light of a flashlight, five people were in my bed playing Mad Gab with one fan in the room. We conjugated by open windows and in open spaces: family room and living room. Our phones were always dying and we had to take turns charging them once the generator was started up, so we had to….talk to each other. Yup, Irma forced family fun time and communication.

I don’t want to make light of Hurricane Irma, but rather highlight my safe place, my eye of the storm. Many people couldn’t understand why we stayed, but it was the best option for my family. I will always be grateful that we did and weren’t hit worse. I will always be grateful for the time the university gave us to prepare and to rebuild with our families. I appreciate the ‘Cane Family even more after we rode out this natural disaster with understanding and support. I have always believed in the strength of the Ibis and Irma brought that out in all of us, no matter if we stayed or evacuated, no matter how we were impacted, no matter the moments of darkness, because here we are once again in the light. 

Coleman ReardonColeman Reardon
Vice president, Student Government and senior, majoring in public relations and political science

September 19, 2017

Being from upstate New York, my only experience with any sort of hurricane or tropical storm was preparing for Hurricane Matthew last October. Fortunately, Matthew did not leave any severe impacts on campus, so this year when I learned of people anticipating a heavy impact from Irma, I did not think too much of it. However, that soon changed when I learned of the cancelling of classes just a couple days after Labor Day and saw that many students were already planning to leave South Florida days before the expected landfall. 

As an RA in Hecht, we held floor meetings ahead of the storm to prepare students and get a good sense of what everyone's plans were. There were some questions that were left unanswered because, of course, a storm like Irma was just so unpredictable! By that time, I had made plans to drive up to my friend's house in central Florida to stay with her and her family. 

By the afternoon of Wednesday, September 6, a lot of students had already left campus, and my plan was to leave that evening, too. So later that day, me and my two friends, Debbie and Mackenzie, got our things and left campus to start the drive up to Lakeland, Florida. 

This ride was the longest I had ever driven and there was quite a lot of traffic on the highway which made me get a sense for how many people were anticipating to be affected by the storm. Luckily, I had gotten gas in my car a few days earlier, so we did not have to wait in any of the long lines to re-fuel. 

Lakeland is about halfway between Tampa and Orlando, so with expected impact in that area being Sunday night, we spent the first few days seeing the sights in Lakeland, and preparing ourselves and where we were staying for Irma. I helped bring in outdoor furniture and we all ran some errands. Luckily, Mackenzie's parents had been through multiple hurricanes, so they seemed to have preparations down to a science. 

My two friends and I also thought it would be fun to prepare for what we would do if we lost electricity, so we decided to get an early start at fine-tuning our board game skills. We started off with Monopoly and played so many others, and I am admittedly not the best at board games, but I still played (I can now, however, confidently say that I know how to at least not lose at Monopoly). 

When Sunday night came around, there were some loud gusts of wind we could hear from inside and the power flickered a few times, but we were some of the lucky ones and ended up not losing electricity at all. The next morning, I woke up to help pick up some branches and debris in the yard and pool and was glued to my phone to see pictures and videos of Irma's impacts on many Caribbean Islands and parts of Florida, especially the place that has become my second home, UM. 

In the days following, I heard many stories of people who were not as fortunate as me and my friends, and have learned of all the work so many people are putting in to get our beautiful campus back to the way it was just a few weeks ago. I was sad to learn that the start of classes would be postponed for another week, but know it was for good measure and that it will make the arrival back to Miami just that much greater!

Adrian NunezAdrian Nuñez
Student Government President and senior, majoring in management and political science

September 19, 2017

In the weeks leading up to Hurricane Irma, I received emails from the University of Miami’s Emergency Management preparing for the potential storm impact. These emails turned into conference calls as Irma’s path was directed toward the Miami. I was glad to see the quick response by the administration to help prepare our students for hurricane impact. The cancellation of classes on Tuesday for the rest of the week enabled students to have enough time to make arrangements to get out of the South Florida area.

Following the closure announcement, I was able to help in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on Wednesday. Being briefed by local and national weather organizations, it seemed like the trajectory of the storm was changing every couple of hours. We weren’t completely sure how we would be impacted, but maintained our preparedness regardless. On the bright side, it was relieving to know that the majority of our students had made plans to leave and that they would be able to take shuttles to the airport.

That night I went home and packed my essential belongings, which included as much UM apparel as possible. At 3:00 a.m., my family, our five dogs, and two birds packed into our cars and caravanned out of the South Florida area. At this point, Hurricane Irma was planning on traveling from Key West through Georgia, so we figured we’d have to head north out of Florida; the plan: Alabama.

View of road from carBetween the traffic of fellow Floridian Evacuees and the rest stops along the way, a 12-hour trip took 18 hours to get to our final destination. Arriving in Jasper, Alabama at 1:30 a.m., we unpacked our car and did the only thing we could do – wait… and eat of course. The hotel staff was greatly accommodating with our pets and the rest of the evacuees. The local church brought trays of food and water bottles to the hotel.

Over the next couple of days, we watched from afar as Hurricane Irma made landfall over Florida. Hoping that the University of Miami campus and our house wouldn’t be terribly affected, I continued to participate in our Crisis Decision Team conference calls to see the potential impacts that the hurricane would have on the different areas of our University. Being far away from campus and my home was challenging, as someone who likes to help and make an impact, I wanted nothing more than to be present. Still, I was grateful for the opportunity to participate, share what students were saying on social media, and be aware of how decisions would impact us.

Following the storm, my family quickly packed up the car and began to make our journey back to Miami. Once we got to Florida, we began to see the effects of Hurricane Irma firsthand. Between endless lines at gas stations to tons of fallen trees and debris in the street, some of the small towns we passed through were completely shut down. With the traffic of returning Floridians, our trip back was not any quicker than it was on the way out. By midnight on Tuesday, we had made it back to find our house in good condition, but almost no electricity around the city.

Since returning to Miami, I’ve helped in the Information Hotline as recovery information has begun to be released and our University returned to normal operations. Hearing from my fellow students or parents, faculty, and even community members who are eager to return back to normal and to help where they can, I am reminded of the resources and opportunities that are here for our community, but I remain grateful for those who are taking action to help out a neighbor, friend, or stranger. That is the epitome of our ‘Cane spirit - our ability to restore, revitalize, and rebuild our community and each other. It has certainly been a long process, but it has been a very safe process not only from the University of Miami leadership, but also from the rest of Florida who evacuated in anticipation of the storm. As we look forward to the rest of the semester, I can’t wait to get back to classes and some good Hurricane football.