In the wake of the Botetourt fire: Botetourt makes a chaotic move to hotels

My experience with the generator blowing up and the subsequent evacuation was a largely negative experience. I was in class the whole day Monday and wasn’t able to check my phone, so after I got out of class I noticed that we had gotten an email about an evacuation. The email stated that we were to be moved out of our residence halls by 4:30 p.m., and that we were unable to move after sunset.

At this point it was 3:50 and I had 40 minutes to pack up my stuff and find temporary housing for my two fish. Luckily, I was able to find housing for my fish just in time. They are delicate fish, and if I hadn’t, they surely would have perished. I didn’t have time to correctly treat the water and make sure that all everything was safe, so I hoped that they would survive the projected four days without me.

When I got to the hotel with my hallmates, it was a largely disorganized setting, and I didn’t know what was going on. About 15 minutes after we had gotten there, someone came in and told us that the reservations didn’t go through and that we would have to wait another hour in order to get our rooms.

I understand that administrative constraints had to be taken into account, but if I had that hour left on campus I would have been able to take better care in the living situation of my animals.

About an hour or so later we were told to quiet down and that we were getting our room keys, so we all hushed.  After some names were called, there was increasing commotion, and those at the back of the room were having trouble hearing the announcer. Roommates were not called in pairs, and if your roommate was called and they weren’t there to receive the key, you had to wait until everyone else got their room before you could get yours. We were not permitted to accept the key in place of our absent roommate.

Additionally, the organizers didn’t consider whether people would elect to stay on campus, with a friend for example, so there were many people staying in double rooms alone, which most likely contributed to a larger cost. If they had considered this fact and done hotel rooms on more of a case-by-case basis, we would have been able to get our rooms much faster.

Living in the hotel was inconvenient, yet overall not much different. There were a few problems with transportation. For example, the buses were supposed to arrive at the top of the hour. My first time taking the bus it was 15 minutes late, which was a problem for people in a hurry.

One of the buses that was going to the Governor’s Inn also arrived slightly late and let its passengers off but didn’t let the people waiting on board. The bus that I was waiting for (from the Woodlands hotel) came shortly after, and the Governor’s Inn residents had to wait even longer.  Upon my asking, the Governor’s Inn occupants had to wait an hour total. Also pertaining to the Governor’s Inn, it was of significantly less quality than that of the Woodlands. Some people I talked to reported having moldy shower curtains and foul-smelling carpets, which was a bit unfair.

Overall, I believe that the situation could have been handled better, yet I am grateful for the help of our RAs and how they kept us as informed and organized as possible. Looking back, I would have appreciated more time to take care of my fish. Since the incident didn’t last the projected four days, the fish survived without me living with them. I appreciate the College’s ability to get us temporary residence and, considering the abrupt nature of the issue, it handled it in a satisfactory way. Still, I would have appreciated more warning, time and information.

Email Caroline Toth at


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