Hurricane preparation varies across the Sunshine state. Some only prepare for Category 5 hurricanes and others prepare even for the slightest of tropical depressions. Depending on whom you ask, students specifically, you will get varying answers about hurricane preparedness. Some students rely on their families for preparation and others take matters into their own hands by making sure everyone is set and ready.
Grocery stores run low on essentials. Hardware stores become packed with customers and gas stations have lines that seem miles long. Hurricanes make a huge impact on those who are in their path, but students handle them in different ways.
Hurricane Irma, which has now passed through Florida, made a devastating impact on residents all over the state. “Four feet of water flooded my street up to my doorstep,” local Ortega resident, Luke Raynolds, said. “It even got into my floor-based air conditioning vents and my garage.”
Raynolds is a single, 23-year-old recent graduate who works in online retail. His preparations included purchasing canned food, water, and cleaning his garage to fit his newly purchased truck in the hope of saving it from the storm. Raynolds lives in Flood Zone A and was very concerned about Hurricane Irma. “I suggest people in low-lying flood zones move their vehicles to higher areas,” said Raynolds, “also move electronics and other items off the floors inside your house.”
A local Publix employee and a student at the University of North Florida, Jordan Byrd, wasn’t too worried about the storm. His family’s preparation was limited to purchasing extra water. “My home typically doesn’t lose power, so we weren’t too worried,” said Byrd. Ever since he started working at Publix several years ago, Byrd witnessed several smaller hurricane preparation times and suggests customers go to stores as early as possible to purchase necessary items. “Water and bread are the most popular items,” Byrd said. “So as soon as people know a hurricane may come their way, people should stock up on food and water.”
The Publix at Tinseltown received truckloads of bread and necessary items every couple of hours in the days leading up to Hurricane Irma, according to Byrd.
All the way up until Saturday evening we had trucks coming every few hours with hurricane supplies,” Byrd said, “but try to be prepared all the time with nonperishable items, it’ll alleviate some of the struggles of the crowds and last minute prep. It’s all about the timing to get what you need.”
Another student, Chris Neely, who studies at the Florida State College at Jacksonville and works at Winn-Dixie also has a few tips for those looking to prepare.
People are very concerned only in the latter days before the hurricane,” Neely said, “get prepared as early as possible, if you need water and stores are running short, get there before the store opens for the best shot at finding water.”
Neely’s family wasn’t concerned with the storm until a few days before, but prepared by filling all the cars with gas, filling a box with nonperishable food to eat, and storing water in containers. Neely and his family are closely watching a cold front, they say, was moving south towards the hurricane to hopefully calm the storm or move it out of the direct path of Florida.
“If you’re really worried about evacuating, just do it,” Neely said, “and I definitely wouldn’t stay at the beach.” Neely did not board up his house with plywood and does not have plans to evacuate. He isn’t in a flood zone or in a heavily storm-influenced area and plans to ride out the storm with confidence.
“My house is a compound,” says student and mother, Samantha Mathers, “I never took these things seriously before being a mom.” Mathers is a senior at FSCJ who studies Converged Communications. She suggests people prepare by filling up bathtubs, pots, pans, and whatever else they can with water, and purchasing a Brita filter to have ample drinking water before the storm hits. She also suggests purchasing baby wipes and food for those with young children. “Get a generator and those little portable Wi-Fi boxes,” Mathers says, “and then you’re set!”
As a student, Mathers is very satisfied with how the school has handled hurricane preparations because “FSCJ was the first academic institution in Jacksonville to announce closure, even before UNF and JU [Jacksonville University].” “They have been wonderful,” Mathers stated, “and by closing the school a few days early they have allowed people the time they need to get prepared.”
The toll of Irma was devastating through parts of Florida and no amount of preparation could have helped save the homes of some residents. The amount of flooding which took place in the more flood-prone areas destroyed a multitude of homes and left many families without a place to stay. Relief was provided by the government and agencies such as the American Red Cross to the affected families and for those who lost their homes.
We are thankful to the thousands of electrical workers, who worked countless hours to restore power to all those who lost it, and thankful to the first responders who worked tirelessly to help those in need. We are thankful to the relief workers, volunteers, and community members who offered help to those that needed it, and also thanks to everyone who is offering help through donations to relief organizations. Florida will recover over time with the collective effort of the community members.