Home for the hurricanes

Hurricane season is always a hot topic of conversation in Florida. In fact, one of the first things my father asked me when we discussed my move to Tampa was, “What does USF do for its residents during a hurricane?”

When Hurricane Charley threatened the west coast of Florida in August, my parents were breathing many sighs of relief that I hadn’t moved over here yet. Being the joker that I am, I told my parents that once I moved over here, a hurricane would probably threaten the east coast, where they live.

No sooner had I said that, than Hurricane Frances came beating on my front door in Melbourne. I worried about my parents, but I knew that they had everything under control and the safest place for me would be in Tampa. A few friends of mine had even come over to Tampa to escape Frances, so my weekend wasn’t spoiled by wind and rain.

Life seemed to get back to normal once classes resumed last Wednesday. As much as I loved the long weekend, I was anxious to sit in class and actually do something productive with my day. Once Thursday had rolled around, I was getting back into the swing of things … until my family called that night to tell me to come home because of Hurricane Ivan. Now there was another hurricane beating on my door.

Per my father and brother’s advice, after my Friday afternoon class, my car was packed and I was on my way to the East Coast.

Thanks to a hurricane, I made my first trip home from college.

It wasn’t exactly what I had expected. My family was very happy to see me and to hear about my experiences so far in college, and I was looking forward to sleeping in my bedroom again (even if my mother has already started using it for storage).

But I wasn’t very happy to see Melbourne. After being pummeled by Hurricane Frances, my hometown was unrecognizable. Familiar street signs were gone; stop signs were replaced; destroyed traffic lights and debris were strewn everywhere.

My backyard no longer had a fence, and several decorative shutters on our windows were no more. This wasn’t home. This was a disaster area. I was thankful that my parents did as well as they did through the hurricane. Everything that was destroyed can be replaced and no one was hurt.

I stayed home for about 48 hours before I decided to make my way back to Tampa. My trip home was much needed for both my family and myself. I enjoyed eating my mother’s food (since I was getting sick of eating on campus), being able to take a bath, and sleeping in a room where I knew no one would be out in the hallway making noise until all hours of the morning. My mom was kind enough to do all the laundry that I lovingly brought back with me, and I had an opportunity to see those that I hadn’t seen in almost a month.

As much as I wanted to go home, after 24 hours, I was already missing Tampa. I had grown to like staying up late with my roommate and doing what I wanted, when I wanted. My trip home reinforced my reasoning for being at college. I hope that another hurricane doesn’t threaten either coast for the rest of hurricane season — which doesn’t end until November 30.

Freshman Olivia Hattan is a mass communications major.