The Gulf Coast’s worst nightmare is happening again, and college students fled the southeastern states as then category three Hurricane Gustav raged toward New Orleans.
Three years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the ill-prepared Louisiana city, another weather system threatens it. Category three hurricanes have sustained winds of up to 130 mph and storm surges, a rise in ocean water, of up to 12 feet above sea level. Hurricane Katrina was a category three storm when it made landfall in 2004, and Gustav was expected to strengthen by the time it reached land. Fortunately, weather officials downgraded Hurricane Gustav to a category two storm before it reached the coast around 10 a.m. Monday morning.
In anticipation of the storm, colleges shut down Friday, ahead of Sunday’s official evacuation order from New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. According to the Washington Post, Gulf Coast students turned to friends for shelter.
“As people started talking about the new hurricane, I was thinking, ‘this can’t be happening again,’” Xavier College senior Danielle Person told the Post. “I don’t know if we can do this again.”
When Katrina ravaged the coast three years ago, Person was only 17 and a freshman at Xavier. There were no more plane or bus tickets out of the area, and she was too young to rent a car. Luckily, an Xavier administrator gave Person a ride to Nashville, Tennessee, where she was able to fly home.
This year, Person finds herself in Nashville once again, this time taking refuge at a friend’s home.
The friend was Howard University administrator Ruthie Reynolds, who drove Person to Nashville Friday after the university shut down. Danielle Smith, a Los Angeles native and Xavier student, is also staying in Reynolds’ home.
As Gustav threatened to wreak havoc on New Orleans again, some students decided that attending a Gulf Coast school may not be worth the risk. Dominque Ivey of Bowie, Md., spoke of her frustration to the Post.
“I really want my degree to say Xavier, but this is too much to go through,” she said. “You can’t keep having this kind of disruption.”
Gustav, however, did not cause the amount of damage weather officials thought it capable of. According to The Chicago Tribune, most buildings, including college campuses, escaped severe damage.
Xavier College, along with other universities, is scheduled to reopen Thursday.