Florence vs. Dorian: The evacuations and how they were handled


Jacob Sawyer

Hurricane Dorian approaching UNC Wilmington’s campus on Sept. #, 2019

Sarah Levinson, Contributing Writer

It seems that evacuating due to a hurricane has become a September tradition at UNC Wilmington. For the second consecutive year, students have had a mandatory evacuation because of a hurricane barreling towards the North Carolina coast.

In 2018, it was Florence. Hurricane Florence ripped through Wilmington, costing our school and town millions of dollars in damage. Most of New Hanover County was left without power and Florence had recorded more rain than any other weather event in Wilmington’s history. UNCW had no choice but to evacuate students before Hurricane Florence made landfall.

In 2019, it was Dorian. Although the aftermath of Dorian was far less severe than Florence, it still called for an evacuation of UNCW students.

I interviewed Jennifer Pains, a UNCW sophomore, to understand what her evacuation experience last year was like. Jennifer resided in Galloway Hall during the fall semester of 2018 when Florence made its impact on N.C.

She explained that, being an in-state student, she was given an ample amount of time to evacuate safely home. However, her out-of-state friends were not as lucky.

“I had some friends who struggled to find decently priced flight tickets,” Pains said.

Pains also said that she was updated by the school throughout the course of her evacuation last year, but “the emails sent out to students was mostly a constant back and forth of when the school would reopen, which for most [students] was very irritating.”

When Jennifer was finally able to return home, after a month of evacuation, she described the campus being in relatively good shape. Galloway Hall, however, being the oldest residence facility on campus, was not in as good of shape.

“There was wrapping that looked like cardboard throughout the hallway floor,” Pains explained.

A few of her personal items were missing from her dorm room, but “nothing that couldn’t really be replaced.” UNCW recommended bringing expensive and personal items in its evacuation email, however, “no one believed [Hurricane Florence] would do as much damage as it did,” Jennifer added.

For the short time that students were evacuated for Hurricane Dorian, UNCW frequently updated its website to keep students informed on the condition of our school and a potential reopen date. The campus looked virtually untouched when we were able to return after less than a week. There were no reports of any missing or damaged personal property and any student that was not able to find an evacuation location was given sanctuary at another university in the state.

The aftermath of Hurricane Florence was undeniably far worse than that of Dorian’s. In terms of how the school handled the evacuation for each of these hurricanes, I would say that overall Dorian was handled better. However, I believe this is only because of the drastic effect that Florence had. UNCW and the students were far more prepared this time around because we have seen how bad it can actually be.