News, Off Campus

After Two Destructive Hurricanes, Affected Students Reflect

Hurricane Harvey tore through 300 miles of the Texas coast last month, destroying homes, businesses, and displacing over 1 million people. Just two weeks later, Hurricane Irma attacked the Caribbean Islands, Cuba, and much of Florida. Although Irma was downgraded to Category 2 by the time it reached Florida, storm winds reached up to 105 m.p.h, and surges of up to four feet flooded downtown Miami. The hurricanes left behind tens of billions of dollars in damage and forced millions of Americans to evacuate.

Various groups at Boston College have made efforts to provide assistance in the recovery for the hurricanes. The Volunteer and Service Learning Center will coordinate a point drive this week to support families affected by the hurricanes. At this weekend’s home football game against Notre Dame, the University will raise money for hurricane relief efforts. In addition, the Office of Campus Ministry is planning to add several new locations to their Appalachia Volunteers service trip in Texas and Florida. No new destinations have yet been confirmed.

Harvey hit Texas just as students were moving onto campus. Blake Gould, MCAS ’19, planned on leaving for BC on August 26, but due to the serious forecast of the storm, his parents convinced him last minute to leave on the 25.

“In one evening, I had to pack everything that I was going to be able to take,” he said.

Gould’s parents told him not to worry about packing too heavily because they would come up to BC the first week to bring the rest of his belongings. Little did they know the flooding would be so severe that Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport would be closed for a week, with no commercial flights arriving or departing.

Gould arrived at BC with a small carry-on and a backpack containing enough clothing for a week. He couldn’t move into his off-campus home until Sept. 1, so he stayed in friend’s rooms both on and off campus over the course of the week. He described his week as hectic, as he rolled his suitcase with him often, moving from one room to another.

“It was almost uncomfortable at some points,” he said. “But I had a good group of guys that I was able to reach out to. They offered up their homes to me without a second look.”

Due to the severity of the flooding and damage in Houston, his parents were not able to come to Boston to bring his belongings when he moved into his off-campus home.

Despite the tumultuous situation he faced on campus and at home, Gould made it a point to attend all of his classes, which he said served as a distraction from what was going on at home. Many of his teachers knew where he was from, and he would tell his story to his classmates.

Houston received over 50 inches of rain during the week of Harvey. Kingwood, the area of Houston which Gould is from, is bordered by a lake and several reservoirs. Many of the town’s restaurants and businesses are located along the water and were destroyed by flooding, Gould said.

His family decided not to evacuate from their home because they believed they were far enough from the reservoir that flooding would not be an issue. They soon discovered they were wrong, as water began to flood their backyard. They then decided it was time to evacuate.

“It was very hectic before the storm. There was nothing left on the shelves. Everyone was going nuts to get a survival kit.”

—Sergio Farina, CSOM ’20

Luckily, their house was built high enough that water did not reach the first floor, but their elderly neighbor across the street was not as lucky. She had several feet of water flooding the first floor of her home.

After evacuating the area for three days, Gould’s father and two younger brothers went back home to assess the damage. Besides a torn-up backyard, their house was intact. They saw the damage that was done to the neighbor’s house across the street and decided to help her with her rebuilding. They are helping her repair the first level of her home.

Gould stayed in communication with his friends throughout the entire storm. Many of their homes were severely damaged from flooding. Some attend universities close to Houston, so they were able to come home and pitch in with the recovery efforts in the neighborhood.

“Everybody has really made an effort to come together and help each other out,” Gould said.

Two weeks after the devastation of Harvey, Irma hit Florida and surrounding islands.

“It was very hectic before the storm,” said Sergio Farina, CSOM ’20 and a Tampa native. “There was nothing left on the shelves. Everyone was going nuts to get a survival kit.”

Farina’s family evacuated a day before the storm hit Tampa, staying in South Carolina in an effort to avoid the storm. Soon after the storm hit Florida, however, it also hit South Carolina, causing flash floods and trapping Farina’s family there.

Farina said the power is still out in much of Tampa and there was severe flooding close to the coast. His home was not damaged greatly during the storm, but his roommate, who has a house in Miami, believes his house could be destroyed, but his family has not been allowed back to see the extent of the damage yet.

Sage Francis, MCAS ’19, is from Coral Gables, Fla, which is just southwest of Miami.

Both of her parents evacuated and stayed with family in Charlotte, N.C. Her home was not damaged during the storm, but her childhood home farther south, was hit hard and sustained damage.

Coral Gables, known for its tree-lined streets, now faces a problem as many of the trees have fallen and are blocking roads.

Francis’s high school’s football field was destroyed during the storm. A sailboat was picked up from the storm surge and sprawled across the field.

“It’s weird to see the videos of [the damage], but knowing that everyone I know is safe is nice,” Francis said.

If you have been affected by Hurricanes Harvey or Irma and would like to tell your story to The Heights, please reach out to [email protected].

Featured Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

September 14, 2017