After the university hunkered down in preparation for Hurricane Irene’s wrath, minimal damage was apparent on Sunday morning.
The Category 1 hurricane dumped four inches of rain on the campus throughout Saturday afternoon and evening. Forty to fifty miles per hour winds, which qualify as tropical storm force, slammed the campus area.
Large roof shingles on the New Science Center construction site came loose Saturday night as the hurricane winds buffeted the city. Students were informed of the damage and were warned at 11:55 p.m. throughHOYAlert — the university’s text messaging system used to notify students of emergencies — that the shingles could possibly become projectiles.
D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services responded to the scene, as they originally believed that the building was collapsing, according to D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman Pete Piringer.
The fire department secured the area and established a safety zone from which pedestrians were excluded.
The shingles on the New Science center were repaired Sunday morning after the weather relented. The university also addressed minor repairs across campus, particularly leaks resulting from the heavy rain.
An additional HOYAlert message at 1:15 a.m. warned students to remain indoors, citing downed trees and flying debris as possible hazards. The danger of encountering debris carried by the violent winds was a threat through the city on Saturday night. Some minor injuries were sustained throughout D.C., according to Piringer.
“We always had the potential danger of people being struck,” he said. “Neither [at Georgetown] nor anywhere else around the city were there serious injuries.”
Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Service received no hurricane-related emergency calls this weekend, according to Emily Malavenda (COL ’13), GERMS’ director of public relations.
President Obama declared a state of emergency for the District Sunday morning, according to a Federal Emergency Management Agency press release the same day. This measure enables the agency to organize disaster relief efforts using federal funding. Seventy-five percent of the aid needed to address the city’s emergency measures will be provided by the federal government.
The university experienced 28 leaks across campus and two downed off-campus trees and one student reported the smell of gas in the aftermath of the hurricane, according to Vice President for Facilities and Student Housing Karen Frank. There was no structural damage to any university building, however. The university had removed the three crosses affixed to the top of Healy Hall in preparation for the hurricane. It was determined that the crosses should be better secured in an inspection of the campus after Tuesday’s earthquake.
The university had also prepared for power outages by encouraging students to store emergency supplies and bringing in four additional industrial grade generators to sustain O’Donovan Dining Hall and the Leavey Center as well as other designated gathering spaces. However, no area of the campus lost power throughout Saturday night.
While campus reactions to the hurricane varied, some students took heed of the university’s warnings and stocked up on dry goods, batteries and flashlights. In doing so, many encountered the widespread panic in the greater D.C. area.
“There was a single loaf of bread. This lady fought me for a Lunchable,” said Julie Negussie (COL ’14), who went to Wal-Mart to find supplies. “At 1 a.m. there were lines.”
With such apprehension apparent, New Student Orientation made serious changes to its schedule. New Student Convocation, planned for Sunday morning, has been moved to Tuesday, Aug. 30 at 7p.m. and will be broadcast online for families who cannot attend. While the NSO staff published the original amendments to the schedule on Friday evening, changes to individual events have been made throughout the weekend, with Orientation Advisers passing the news on to their freshmen.
“It’s more difficult to keep [the freshmen] updated and make sure they’re all there,” OA Franklin Sylvester (COL ’14) said regarding the rather sudden changes to the schedule. “The next few days should be back to normal, which are technically the most important … in becoming part of thecommunity.”
Sylvester believes that being confronted with a hurricane has not weakened the bonds that are traditionally formed during NSO.
“The rain’s not really affecting [the freshmen’s excitement] and that’s why I’m trying to not let it bother me either,” he said.
Freshmen said that the changes to the schedule have changed the pace of their first few days on campus. Matt Sarge (NHS ’15) felt that, because the university was worried about the storm, his move-in day was too rushed and his first full day on campus was too slow. Still, he felt that he has still had ample time to get to know his orientation group despite the erratic schedule.
“I think when we’re meeting we get to know people better, but we haven’t had as much time,” he said.
The university has allowed returning students to move in early and all students to delay their arrivals as necessary to accommodate storm-related travel difficulty. Students who have yet to arrive on campus will receive move-in assistance and be granted academic flexibility.
In the end, some students felt the event did not live up to the hype.
“I was really hoping for more drama. Trees crashing, power going out, chaos,” Thomas Brooke (NHS ‘14) said.
Hoya Staff Writer Lauren Weber contributed to this report.