Isaac delays start of semester

During the Week of Welcome, the only unwelcome guest was Tropical Storm Isaac.

As the Tampa Bay Area went under a Tropical Storm Warning, Hillsborough County declared a state of emergency, all public schools in the area closed and all first-day events during the Republican National Convention (RNC) were cancelled, as clouds began to hang over the first day of classes at the USF Tampa campus.

All USF campuses were declared closed Monday, though clinics remained open.

Based on information we received from state and federal agencies, our Emergency Management Team decided it was the best thing to do in terms of everyones safety, USF spokeswoman Lara Wade-Martinez said.

But for many freshmen like Donnie Dahlke, the cancellations rained in on his first day of school plans.

Im bummed out that it ruined my first college experience, Dahlke, a freshman majoring in political science said. I had everything planned out.

The cancellation of classes was announced at 6:15 p.m. on Sunday night after a weekend of periodic rainfall and increasing wind speeds. The announcement closing all USF campuses came minutes after an earlier statement closing just the St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland campuses. All Monday Week of Welcome events were cancelled as well.

Many students were disappointed when the Tampa campus remained open on the first day of classes, which by law mandates attendance to be taken. Those who didnt attend class would have been dropped, though some students have been excused from classes to participate in the RNC.

Some Tampa campus professors began canceling their first-day courses anyway.

Laura Enger, a senior majoring in special education, said she lives in Manatee County and takes classes at both the Sarasota-Manatee and Tampa campuses. As she was formulating an email to send her Tampa professors, she received a Blackboard alert stating she didnt have to drive to Tampa.

At least my professors knew not to take that risk, she said. I dont know why USF would keep classes open (in Tampa.) Did they want me to drive through tropical storm weather? Other students shouldnt (have felt) like they have to go to class because theyre afraid of being dropped. They (should have) just emailed their professors.

While essential personnel are required to report to USFs campuses, many students expressed relief over the closure.

It gives me an extra day to get everything together and prepare mentally for my classes, Mike Tavlin, a freshman majoring in civil and environmental engineering, said about the closure.

According to the National Weather Service, wind gusts from Isaac had sustained over 60 mph just outside the Tampa Bay Area Sunday night. By the time it is forecasted to reach land in the gulf late Tuesday or early Wednesday, the storm could become a Category 2 hurricane, with wind speeds over 96 mph.

With the wind and rain, moving in was troublesome for new students.

JJ Gandia and his father arrived just hours after the university sent out alert messages about the closure on the first day of classes. On their trip from Orlando, the pair experienced an extra half hour of traffic.

Its hectic, but were here now, Jose Gandia, JJs father, said.

At the time of checking in, Jose was unsure of whether to stay the night or return to Orlando. Jose said he was concerned about his son and the weather, but that his sons mother was more worried back in Puerto Rico, where the storm initially hovered near and caused flooding.

Im the first one in my family to go to college outside of Puerto Rico, and this is an interesting experience for my whole family, JJ said. I can understand why the storm is making them worried.

Other students were also nervous of the storm canceling their first day of classes, as some come from areas where hurricanes and tropical storms are unknown.

Im super scared, Kacy McKinnon, a transfer student from St. Louis, said. Ive never seen weather like this before. Im used to snow storms, when you just get snowed in, but definitely not hurricanes.

Both McKinnon and her roommate from New York were looking forward to their first day of classes, but were relieved to hear they didnt have to run to class in the harsh rains.

Among those on campus Monday, essential personnel remained working to maintain regular functions that included adjusted hours in the dining halls and other vital functions like security and maintenance. The Marshall Student Center and all retail locations and offices, however, were closed.

Wade-Martinez said the Emergency Management Team continues to monitor the storm and will keep students alert via MoBull text alerts as well as other social media and website methods.

Additional reporting by Divya Kumar