W&L students feel Harvey and Irma’s wrath from afar

Emma Derr

As Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma struck the southern United States in the last few weeks, the impact of these catastrophic storms reached far beyond Texas and Florida, disrupting the lives of numerous students across the campus of Washington and Lee.

“Near the end of the storm I was concerned not only for the safety of my friends and family, but also [about] whether or not I’d be able to return to W&L in the fall,” said Madeline Geno, ‘20, who is from Houston.

Harvey and Irma were the only Category 4 Atlantic storms in recorded history to hit the U.S. in the same year—let alone two weeks apart.

Some estimates place the combined damage costs of both storms at a staggering $200 billion—nearly twice the amount caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Harvey landed in Texas on Aug. 25, and over the course of about a week, was responsible for more than 80 deaths.

Some parts of Houston experienced a record-breaking 52 inches of rain as a result of the storm. The unusually heavy rainfall was so abnormal that it forced the National Weather Service to rewrite its color-coding system used to track and measure precipitation.

“Hurricane Harvey was a devastating event that truly impacted my community at home,” Geno said. “It required the strength of an entire city to overcome much of the destruction that we suffered, and it will require much more as Houston begins to rebuild itself.”

Hurricane Irma, which made landfall over the Florida Keys on Sept. 10, brought less rain than its Texas counterpart but far more destructive winds that left as many as 15 million Floridians without power for at least some period of time.

The Tampa area home of SarahCate Harrison, ‘19, was almost directly in the storm’s path.

“Fortunately, my county was one of the only ones in my area to not be evacuated,” Harrison said. “However, my area experienced a 60-percent loss in power that took over a week to fully restore.”

More than 6.5 million Floridians—about a third of the state’s total population, were under mandatory evacuation orders at the time the hurricane hit. Seventy-five were killed, either directly or indi

rectly, as a result of the natural disaster before Irma finally dissipated.

A number of campus organizations are taking part in hurricane relief efforts to aid those affected by

the storms, regardless of their affiliation with the university.

The Phi Society, for instance, sold Chick-fil-A sandwiches in Elrod Commons last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to benefit the Red Cross’s Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

“One of our seniors is from Jacksonville, and we also thought it was a timely contribution to make due to the recent events,” Phi Society member Ben Brown said. “We’re teaming up with the Red Cross Club to run the whole operation.”

The Financial Aid and Undergraduate Admissions offices also issued statements offering assistance to any students impacted by the hurricanes.

“I was fortunate enough to get out of Houston before the flooding worsened and made it to campus before classes began, but what made my return to W&L so special was the people,” Geno said. “It’s comforting to know that I’m part of a community that truly cares [about] and wishes the absolute best for all of its members.”