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Emma Jordan was only 13-years-old when Hurricane Irene blocked her access to medical treatment almost causing her to die. Now she must watch her family live through another storm, only this time she’s more than 450 miles away.
Hurricane Florence’s arrival yields not only physical damage, but also mental stress for Carolinians, residents say.
“These natural disasters live with you for the rest of your fucking life and one this big is going to impact the entire state,” Jordan, Cape Hatteras resident and senior at UNC Asheville, said.
Experts anticipate Hurricane Florence, a category two hurricane, will wreak havoc on the Carolinas. Christopher Hennon, atmospheric sciences professor and expert on tropical cyclones, said the total amount of damage remains contingent on where Florence hits shore, where it stalls and how much rain and wind accompany the storm.
“We don’t know exactly where the storm’s going to come to shore. That’s a smaller issue though, the big issue is this is just the center of the storm and these hurricane force conditions, of course they’re going to extend out several hundred kilometers,” Hennon said.
Jordan grew up in Cape Hatteras and still spends her extended breaks there. Her mom, two 13-year-old brothers and three cats who still reside there were forced to evacuate due to Florence, Jordan said.
“There is really a surreal sense being this far from it. Where I spent the last 15 years is about to be decimated,” Jordan said.
According to Jordan, she grew up witnessing the damage caused by hurricanes.
“I have had 3 feet of water in my house before. I have had a foot and a half of water in my house before. I nearly died because of a hurricane, they had to run an emergency ferry because they didn’t have a road to Hatteras and I had appendicitis,” Jordan said.
The destruction she witnessed did not prepare her for how she would feel when separated from her family during a storm, Jordan said.
“You pick and chose the natural disaster you are going to live with, in the midwest you’re likely going to have tornados on a regular basis. If you live somewhere along the water you’re most likely going to deal with a hurricane, and you gotta just be able to prepare for that,” Jordan said. “But what they don’t tell you about that is when you separate yourself seven and a half hours away from the rest of your family, you’ll sit and worry every time even the slightest name of one comes up.”
Taylor Sexton, a UNCA junior, grew up in Wilmington. She said going to class in the onset of the hurricane remains especially difficult.
“I don’t even know how to explain to professors what is going on, because we are so far away from it, it’s like it’s not happening,” Sexton said. “I really just don’t want to go to class this week. It’s really weird how life goes on here.”
Sexton said she worries her house will be gone after the storm and her family will be displaced.
“I feel really helpless. I think that’s what the worst part is. I had a panic attack this morning. I was just like sobbing in the bathroom,” Sexton said.
Mandatory evacuations of coastal areas have displaced millions of North and South Carolinians. UNCA will house 12 students from UNC Wilmington who were forced to evacuate, according to David Weldon, UNC Asheville director of emergency management. Weldon said UNCA hopes to provide them with comfort and safety during the storm.
“Our international students were there last night when the UNC Wilmington students came and they sort of welcomed them and helped them get their bags out,” Weldon said. “Hopefully that made them feel welcome because that’s got to be a tough decision to leave the university, come here and not know where you’re going and all you have with you is your suitcase and knowing that when you go back there might not be a whole lot left.”
Jordan, like many Carolinians, said she wants Hurricane Florence to be over, but fears what will come when it’s gone.
“I need this to be over with,” Jordan said. “Last week, my mom and I were fighting over whether I was going to come home soon or not, and now it’s like am ‘I even going to have a home to go home to in a month?’”
The university encourages students impacted by Hurricane Florence to contact the Dean of Students Jackie McHargue or Health and Counseling for help. The 24-hour Bulldog HealthLink is also available at 1-888-267-3675.