Students still facing hurricane’s impact

Zach Langlois
News Staff Writer
zlangloi@unca.edu

A space view of Hurricane Florence churning over the ocean as she made her way toward the Carolinas, the storm that displaced students from UNC Wilmington. Photo by Alexander Gerst.

Hurricane Florence made landfall on Sept. 14, spinning over Wilmington and the greater part of the coastal and eastern Carolinas.

Due to the dangers posed by the hurricane to the coast, students from UNC Wilmington were temporarily relocated via charter bus to UNC Asheville.

David Weldon, director of emergency management at UNCA, said as of Sept. 17, 12 students and four staff members from UNCW remain on campus in Ponder Hall, South and West Ridge and receive meals and use of campus facilities. Additionally, a new request surfaced on Sept. 17 to house five more relocated UNCW students.

Prior to the storm making landfall, officials projected Florence to hit the east coast, most likely North Carolina and potentially Virginia. Days before the storm the trajectory changed.

“Initially, it was going to go up, kind of in the central part of the state, and that would’ve been fine for us. We really wouldn’t have had a lot of rain, or too much wind. Then, when it shifted south, what that did for us was that it kept the storm over land a lot longer before it reaches us. So, it had a lot more time to weaken,” said Christopher Hennon, chair and professor in the department of atmospheric studies at UNCA.

Hennon also said that the storm didn’t shift far enough south, keeping the heavier rain off to the north and east, which he referred to as the best of both situations.

Remnants of Florence made their way over Western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina, including Asheville between Sept. 14 and 16. Hurricane Florence’s impacts on Asheville appear limited, with a few bands of rain and thunderstorms during the weekend. Hennon said his students observed only 2 inches of rainfall on campus.

“It was a storm that was forecasted to dump a lot of rain on the area; and especially in the mountainous areas, you have to be aware of flash flooding and landslides and phenomena like that,” Hennon said.

Many universities across North Carolina canceled classes in the wake of Hurricane Florence. Appalachian State University announced ahead of the storm that classes would be canceled Sept. 13 and 14 in order to allow for student travel and preparations. UNCA was among the schools that continued a normal schedule throughout the storm.

UNC Asheville staff started monitoring the storm several days ahead of landfall. When conditions and forecasts dictate, class cancelation is considered.” Weldon said.

Many coastal areas in North Carolina sustained damage from Hurricane Florence. The Hoffman Remote Operated Weather Station in Morehead City recorded more than 2 feet of rainfall, causing flooding. Further inland in Lumberton, the local river overflowed causing a mandatory evacuation order to be issued for the southern parts of the town closest to the river.

While direct impacts over Asheville have been minimal, UNCA has students from the coast who have family still living in the areas most affected.

Andy Morrison, environmental studies student, grew up in Wilmington and his parents still live there. His parents opted not to evacuate despite multiple government warnings to do so.

“The biggest problem my parents faced was flooding. They said they were getting 3 feet of water an hour flooding into their basement. Water has to be constantly pumped out to avoid filling completely; the pump runs off the generator which needs gas. They said they waited in line for three hours at a gas station to get more gas so they could continue pumping water.” Morrison said.

Hurricane Florence may be over, but hurricane season does not end until Nov. 30. Asheville in general has little to worry about as it relates to hurricane season because of how far we are inland and the mountainous geography of the region, Hennon said.

“I would just suggest that people not worry about it at all here in Asheville until there’s a storm like Florence approaching the east coast,” Hennon said.

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