Students Express Gratitude and Concern in Irma’s Aftermath

 
Over the weekend, parts of the southeastern United States were hit hard by Hurricane Irma. UT is collecting money online to support relief efforts for devastated areas. Your donation will help make a difference for those in need. 
 
When Hurricane Irma roared through the Caribbean and up the western coast of Florida, some UT students were anxiously watching, concerned about loved ones in harm’s way.

Over the past week, many have finally made contact with relatives. While there is joy that loved ones are safe, there is also concern about the difficulties they’re facing in the aftermath of the storm.

Devin Darr

Devin Darr

Devin Darr a junior in management from Ponte Vedra, a suburb of Jacksonville, is concerned not only about family in Florida, but her extended family in the Virgin Islands.

“Living on the Intracoastal Waterway and five minutes from the beach, hurricanes always pose a big threat to Ponte Vedra and Jacksonville,” Darr said. “My family lost power for a few days, and our entire yard flooded with about three feet of water. Luckily, my family was safe and there was no significant damage, but I wish I could say the same for the rest of the city.”

Devin Darr's family sent her this photo of the flooded streets in their Ponte Vedra neighborhood

Devin Darr’s family sent her this photo of the flooded streets in their Ponte Vedra neighborhood.

Her aunt, who lives in Saint Thomas on the Virgin Islands, didn’t fare as well.

“She lost her home and everything important to her on the island. The scariest part was that we didn’t hear from her for a week until armed forces finally found her safe and were able to get her out of there,” she said.

Darr said watching from afar has been nerve-wracking.

“Being in Knoxville through all of this has been really difficult. I lost all focus on anything unrelated to the hurricane,” she said. “I feel like for the past week I’ve been constantly checking the news stations at home and updating the weather radar.

“I called my family probably 15 times a day just to check in and make sure they were safe,” she said. “I absolutely wish I could’ve been home with my family through all of this and helped in any way that I could.”

Kaylie Mulligan's family's dock

Kaylie Mulligan’s family’s dock in Palm City, Florida, was destroyed.

Kaylie Mulligan

Kaylie Mulligan

Kaylie Mulligan, a senior in business management, is from Palm City, Florida.

“My mom evacuated to Orlando to be more inland, but my dad had to stay and work in Palm Beach because he is a firefighter, which made us all really nervous,” she said. “We’ve been through a lot of hurricanes, so I knew my family was preparing adequately, but it was weird not being there to help.”

Her family is dealing with downed trees and power outages.

“A lot of docks, including mine, are destroyed, too,” she said. “The images coming from different parts of my home state breaks my heart, and I’m keeping them in my prayers.”

Logan McLendon

Logan McLendon

Logan McLendon, a junior in communication studies from McLean, Virginia, was concerned about her sister, who was on a cruise ship that was due to return to Miami as the storm was approaching.

“The cruise line instructed passengers they would be taking Florida residents back to the Miami port to meet with their families and highly recommended all other passengers to stay on board, as they would take them out of the storm’s path,” Logan said.

The remaining cruise ship passengers were taken back out to sea, away from Irma’s path, and eventually docked in Mexico with other cruise ships to wait out the storm.

“At times, we wouldn’t hear from my sister or be able to track the ship. It was terrifying. We were left wondering if she was anywhere near the path of the storm,” McLendon said.

Her sister finally disembarked in Miami on Wednesday and has now safely returned to Virginia.

Brooklyn Fielder, a sophomore in nursing, said she felt helpless because she couldn’t assist her parents in Sarasota, Florida.

“Flights were canceled to Knoxville, and when the hurricane turned at the last minute toward the west coast, they weren’t able to evacuate because of all the traffic,” she said.

With downed phone lines, Fielder was unable to reach her family for hours during the storm. When she finally made contact, she learned they were OK, but without power.

Still, she said, “I am thankful that there were just damages to the property and that my family was safe.”