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IU students from Florida share stories of Hurricane Irma's effects


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By Peter Talbot



Hurricane Irma caused destruction in Southern Florida and the Caribbean, but some of IU’s 542 students from Florida have also felts its effects. And with 414 of those students from the southern counties of Florida, many of their families were right in Irma’s path.

“The thing that worried me the most was if everyone in my family was going to be fine, but you know, they got out of there,” freshman Jonah Kane said.

Kane has lived in downtown Miami his entire life, he said, and his parents have lived there since 1973. Because his family's house is a waterfront property, he said his parents monitor storms very closely.

“I wasn't really shocked at what happened,” Kane said. “I was expecting a lot worse.”

The Kane family's entire dock was destroyed by the storm, and the family's boat went missing, but the house remained intact.

As Hurricane Irma weakened Monday, Dean of Students Dr. Lori Reesor released a statement  of support for students on the Division of Student Affairs blog and Twitter account. The division also sent a similar email directly to students from Florida.

“We know these stressful situations impact everyone in different ways and at different times," Reesor said in the blog statement. “Please reach out to us if there is anything you need during this difficult time. We are here to support you. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and all those impacted by the hurricanes.”

The statement also offered information on handling class absences if students need to return home and directed students to Counseling and Psychological Services for counselors.

Dr. Nancy Stockton, director of Counseling and Psychological Services, said students who want to talk to a counselor can either schedule an appointment over the phone to be seen within 48 business hours or go for walk-in counseling between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the IU Health Center if they feel they are in a crisis.

“No student should be worried about an inability to pay,” Stockton said. “We will figure something out.”

Kane said that not being able to be with his family during the storm was uncomfortable.

“I feel like I want to be there, but at the same time, I know there's not really much to be done,” Kane said. “I can’t control nature.”

Kane said that his family members have kept him updated on how they are doing but that the storm hasn’t had as much of an effect on his day-to-day life at IU as he had expected.

“Whenever I have time, I call my parents to see how they're doing, any updates, et cetera,” Kane said. “But, they're kind of trying to keep me out of it because they don't want me to become distracted.”

Freshman Carlos Perez from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, said he was worried about the size of the storm. He said seeing the destruction Hurricane Irma caused in the Caribbean made him start to worry. 

“It was stronger than a Category 5,” Perez said. “It didn't have a category. That's what I read. And, if a Category 4 like Andrew or Katrina can do what they did to Miami and New Orleans, imagine what something that isn't even on the scale can do.”

While a hurricane cannot go above Category 5, PunditFact reported that the storm reached wind speeds of 185 mph, 28 mph faster than is required for a hurricane to be a Category 5. 

Perez’s family evacuated Fort Lauderdale and went to Tennessee but returned after only two days because the hurricane shifted west. 

“Just a couple trees fell down around my neighborhood, but that's it, nothing too major,” Perez said. 

Perez said he didn’t think the storm had much effect on his daily life but that didn’t mean he wasn’t stressed.

“I knew that they were going to evacuate, so I was just stressed about those little what if's, you know, like what if they don't get out in time,” Perez said. “But they did, so it didn’t really bother me too much on my day-to-day.”

How to help 

For students interested in aiding relief efforts, Herman B Wells Library had an event on Tuesday called the Emergency Humanitarian Mapping Workshop. The event taught students how they can use their laptops to help map damaged areas without any prior experience.  

Librarian Theresa Quill said Tomnod, which is owned by the company DigitalGlobe, allows users to search satellite imagery and tag parts that look damaged. This helps first responders find areas that still need help, especially in regions with poor mapping.

“It’s easy to feel helpless when you’re so far away,” Quill said. “I like that you can just log on for a few minutes. It doesn’t have to be a big time commitment, and it’s genuinely helpful.”

Those interested in contributing can go here to help map damage from Hurricane Irma and here for Hurricane Harvey.

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