On Thursday, Sept. 7, around midday, Beatrice Fontana sits by Lake Osceola. Her shoes are off, her phone is a few feet away. She’s one of the handful of students seen on campus ahead of Hurricane Irma.
While Fontana was sitting by the lake, the university announced it would be evacuating on-campus residents to a university shelter about five miles from the Coral Gables campus.
Fontana is from Italy, so finding a flight home was out of the question. Flights were up to $3,000 when she checked the other day, so she bought a Friday morning flight to New York City. Fontana said she hasn’t received a confirmation, so if her flight gets canceled, she’s planning to stay with a friend in South Beach. The Miami Beach area has been evacuated, but Fontana says her family friend will stay in her hurricane-resistant high rise building.
The experience of preparing for a hurricane – hitting roadblocks and creating a plan b – is completely new and a nerve-wracking experience for her, she says. It’s something she didn’t expect when she started at the University of Miami less than a month ago.
“Even before, I was in a culture shock because everything is so different, and now this on top … ,” she said.
In Hecht residential hall, Bailey Grogan is zipping up her suitcase. On her dorm room door, there’s a small white board used for messages or notes. Today, it says, “F**k off Irma.”
Grogan was able to find a $500 flight to Boston, close to her home, after spending 7 hours online looking for tickets. She said she has never experienced a hurricane before either, and at first, she was in shock at how strong of a storm Irma is.
“I didn’t really believe it,” she said, “It’s kind of surreal.”
A floor above, roommates Christian Russell and Dillon Yu are packing up to leave. Yu was able to book a flight before the mad rush, but Russell had to pay $1,500 for a roundtrip flight to New York City. Russell was in New York City during Hurricane Sandy, and had to evacuate his apartment building because of flooding.
Both said they were relieved to go home to concerned family members, but unsure of if campus would survive the record-setting wind speeds.
“I’m honestly worried that campus is going to get rocked,” Yu said.
By Thursday, there were fewer than 140 students left on campus, Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely said. The evacuation to the hurricane shelter is scheduled for Friday afternoon. Residents will receive more information at mandatory floor meetings on Thursday night.