Hurricanes hit home: students affected by Harvey and Irma speak about their experiences

“Everyone was kind of asking each other, ‘I hope your family is safe and dry,’” Zaakir Tameez said. “Those were the two things. So they were safe and dry, which was nice, even though the back and front yard were not.”

ns-HoosforHurricaneRelief-CourtesyStudentCouncil

Student Council created a "Hoos for Hurricane Relief" Facebook page.

Courtesy Student Council | Cavalier Daily

Several University students have been affected by the recent hurricanes across the U.S., as well as the subsequent floods.

Third-year College student Madeline Baker was in Texas during Hurricane Harvey and had to evacuate from the Corpus Christi area with her family. 

Her home survived the hurricane with minimal damage, but nearby neighborhoods experienced severe devastation. 

“Corpus got a lot of the rain and the wind, but it’s the cities that are kind of north and a little bit more coastal … that houses are leveled to the ground,” Baker said. “A whole high school is missing a piece of it so they closed the high school and have to redistribute those students.”

Third-year College student Zaakir Tameez lives closer to Houston, and his home was a part of the controlled flooding neighborhoods.

“Essentially, because they were afraid that the reservoirs would literally break because of the capacity of water in them, they willfully opened them to let some water out,” Tameez said. “That was a weird situation to be in when the city is basically flooding your neighborhood by choice.”

The interior of his home did not have flooding, but the surrounding neighborhood was submerged — stranding his family for two weeks. 

“There was just water everywhere,” Tameez said. “Everyone was kind of asking each other, ‘I hope your family is safe and dry.’ Those were the two things. So they were safe and dry, which was nice, even though the back and front yard were not.”

Third-year College student Haley Shoebotham also had her Houston neighborhood flooded, but her house was unharmed. 

Social media has already played a larger role in the rescue efforts for Hurricane Harvey. Both Tameez and Shoebotham said they noticed a shift in their social media regarding the number of support and rescue offers on their Facebook pages. 

“My brother told us that his friends were out in boats rescuing people,” Shoebotham said. “There was so much of that going on like all over Facebook, I had people saying ‘I have a boat if anyone needs rescuing.’”

Fourth-year College student Alexandra Pentel, of Jacksonville, Fla., said the area was still recovering from Hurricane Matthew when it was hit by Hurricane Irma. Her neighborhood experienced severe flooding from the storm. 

“It hit around 3 a.m. but I got a text from my family at 10 a.m. the next day saying there was two feet of water outside and they were trapped in the house,” Pentel said. 

Though some of the water receded, surrounding areas are still flooded, preventing people from leaving their homes and neighborhoods. 

“A lot of my friends that are home right now are boating in the streets,” Pentel said. “They have paddleboards and canoes out and are just getting around that way.”

Third-year College student Maddy Rabil said her Tampa home braced for the worst, but did not receive as much damage as planned. The hurricane had pulled the water from the bay, so there was no flooding. 

“It definitely could have been worse,” Rabil said.

Pentel said she has been monitoring the news throughout the hurricane.

“It was weird because you see posts for Harvey and stuff, like big public Facebook posts,” Pentel said. “But when it’s actually your friends sharing it, it’s totally different. It feels weird.”

Student Council has created a “Hoos for Hurricane Relief” Facebook page for students who may have been affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Shivani Saboo, a second-year Engineering student and Student Council Engineering school representative, led the initiative by creating a page that centralizes efforts by different groups around Grounds to provide aid to the victims. 

Saboo said she noticed a lack of participation in donations after she created a drive through the Indian Student Association.

“I don’t think that’s because people don’t want to help,” Saboo said. “I think it’s more because people don’t know what’s going on or how they can help. I took that and translated that into my role at Student Council, hoping that, as a Student Council body, maybe we can make people more aware so people that do want to help can.”

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