The flights are full. The highways so jammed with traffic that some people are running out of gas just sitting on the road. The shelves of stores are empty as people stock up on food and water.
This is what TCU senior Alyssa Sweeney said her parents are dealing with in Sarasota, Florida. Sweeney’s grandmother caught a flight out of town, but the rest were so full, her parents are waiting out the storm.
“I have a lot of family in Florida and most of them are staying put and hoping the for the best,” Sweeney said. “My mom is very nervous, but if we lost power here there are shelters we can go to. They are trying to keep a positive attitude.”
Sweeney’s hometown is in the projected path of Hurricane Irma which could make landfall as a Category 5. So far at least nine people were reported dead as a result of the storm with the United Nations predicting that up to 37 million people could be affected.
— NWS Miami (@NWSMiami) September 7, 2017
There are more than 375 enrolled students at TCU with permanent addresses in the states expected to be hit by Irma. There are 116 in Florida, 135 in Georgia, 23 in South Carolina and 53 in North Carolina.
Sweeney said that her parents have put hurricane shudders on her house and went to Sam’s Club earlier in the week to stack up on food and water. Her father was one of around 400 people lined up at the store before it opened, she said.
“I think because Harvey just hit, people are really freaked out so they are trying to really prepare for what so could happen,” Sweeney said. “It’s kind of a joke being from Florida that we always have hurricane warnings but they are never taken seriously because you never think it’s actually going to hit you. I’ve never seen people take it more seriously which is interesting.”
Other people preparing are those in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. While the park is currently still open as usual, certain water parks are closed in preparation for the storm and officials at the park said they are closely monitoring Irma’s path. There are several TCU alumni who work at the park as part of the Disney College Program. One is Class of 17 alumnae Hannah Wright who called the hurricane preparations intense.
“Hurricane prep is in full swing!” Wright said. “Those of us in college program housing will receive updates from our management telling us to stay and wait it out or to relocate to the resort if things get bad. We can also pick up a 72-hour ‘ride out’ shift to get the parks hurricane ready and to stay at the parks or in other shelters during the storm and cleaning up afterward.”
While the east coast prepares for Irma, Texans are still working to recover from the damage left by Hurricane Harvey. The Senate passed a bill Thursday that would deliver the first round of hurricane aid money if passed by the House, something many view as a growing necessity since FEMA’s emergency fund is almost empty.
Sweeney said that she saw people being so supportive for Houston in the wake of Harvey that she hopes people can do the same when it comes to those affected by Irma.
“Just keeping Florida and that area in their thoughts and prayers,” Sweeney said. “Right now there is not much people can do besides that. We don’t know what the damage will look like. Keep Florida in mind just like they kept Houston in mind.”
There are also two more hurricanes, Jose and Kita, that have formed in the Atlantic and could follow a similar path as Irma, bringing more destruction in their path.