Hurricane Dorian’s strength caused the university to close Tuesday, Sept. 3, and many students had to return to their hometowns to help prepare or remain in Tampa away from the storm’s path.
The storm ripped through the Bahamas on Sunday as a Category 5, killing nearly 20 people. The hurricane is projected to head North and make landfall near North Carolina and South Carolina as a Category 2 hurricane Thursday through Friday morning, according to the New York Times.
Many students from the Caribbean were devastated after hearing about Dorian’s aftermath.
Cherleya Carey, a senior studying psychology from Nassau, Bahamas, watched videos and Facebook live streams over the weekend as the storm blew over her home.
“Many Bahamian students felt a deep sense of hopelessness while we watched our homes being destroyed, there is nothing you can really do except wait it out,” Carey said.
Multiple students have still not heard from their families on the islands, according to Carey. However, she has been in contact with her family who is doing okay.
Carey said she has heard that there are children who are separated from their parents and elderly people who are in need of medical assistance, now that the storm has passed.
“A lot of residents have nowhere to go, nowhere to turn,” Carey said.
Carey and other Bahamian students are not able to return to their homes because their central airport, Grand Bahama International Airport, has been destroyed.
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen, I cannot even describe it — it’s heartbreaking,” said Carey.
Carey has reached out to International Student Services, in hopes of guidance, and will be meeting with them in the following weeks.
Rebecca Blackler, a senior studying marketing, remained in Tampa while her mother prepared for the storm in Merritt Island, located on the eastern coast of Florida. She said her hometown is expected to receive a lot of rainfall and flooding as the storm passes by in the next couple days.
Blacker said she did not return home because she was unsure whether USF would decide to close the campus on Tuesday.
“They should make quicker decisions,” Blacker said. “It’s hard to say if they should have closed campus for longer or not as you never know what will happen.”
USF officially announced its closure Friday, Aug. 30 at 5 p.m.
D’Ajonae Jayawardana is a biomedical sciences sophomore from Freeport, Bahamas. Her family lives in South Bahamia, one of the few areas of the island that did not flood.
“I felt broken and helpless, it hurts seeing people you know on social media needing to be rescued,” she said.
Jayawardana is part of a group of Bahamian USF students who have teamed up with the Caribbean Cultural Exchange, as well as others in Tampa and Orlando to gather donations for survivors of Hurricane Dorian.
The donations will be sent to the Bahamian Consulate in Orlando, where they will then be shipped weekly off to the islands. There is also a donation drop-off location in St. Petersburg.
“A lot of people just see the Bahamas as paradise or vacation but real people live there with real lives and they are hurting and need help,” Jayawardana said.