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Universities Buckle Down for Irma

As Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida on Sunday with winds blowing at over 130 miles an hour, universities in the Southern United States kept their students informed and protected.

While the aftermath of Irma will bring its own set of challenges, these schools are currently focusing on the safety of students and employees while they wait for the storm to pass. Governor Rick Scott of Florida on Thursday ordered all public schools to be closed from Friday to Monday. Some universities in the most severely struck regions have canceled classes through the middle of next week, while others across the country are extending a helping hand in anticipation of the recovery efforts.

At Southeast University in Lakeland, Florida, President Dr. Kent Ingle Tweeted photos over the weekend of students safely gathered in “ride-out” locations. On its website, Southeast University announced on Friday that students must report to these designated buildings where they will remain for the duration of the storm. According to the announcement, these locations are supplied with food, water and medical supplies, and students should expect to spend at least 48 hours in these locations with the possibility of power outages and loss of internet service.

The University of Central Florida in Orlando, the largest university in the state, announced its own ride-out locations for student residents on Saturday afternoon. Later in the evening, the university opened the locations to students who live off-campus but would prefer to relocate. “A limited number of spaces is available due to a smaller-than-expected turnout of on-campus and affiliated housing residents,” the announcement said.

On the opposite coast, the University of South Florida in Tampa made clear its operations were going smoothly. Its officials posted on Twitter that thousands of meals had been served on Saturday in its campus dining halls.

The University of Florida on Sunday extended the closure of its main campus in Gainesville from Monday to Tuesday in expectation of the prolonged storm. An announcement on the university’s website added that “Only essential university personnel should report to work although additional personnel may be asked to come in on Tuesday to assess damage and prepare for opening.”

The University of Miami expects to be closed for an additional week as it plans to resume classes on Monday, September 18. The university’s website issued a tornado warning for Miami-Dade County on Sunday morning.

Further north, Claflin University in South Carolina announced on Friday that the campus would be closed through next Tuesday due to the expected seven inches of rain and 70 miles per hour winds. Dining halls will serve students through the duration of Irma, but late-night dining will be prohibited.

Alabama State University announced on Sunday that essential employees must report on Wednesday, but classes would remain canceled pending further assessment.

Outside Irma’s path of destruction, Triton College in Illinois has begun a hurricane relief drive for those impacted by the natural disasters of the past several weeks. The college is accepting a short list of items including toiletries, diapers and some hygiene products. Food, clothing and furniture are not being accepted.

Joseph Hong can be reached at [email protected]

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