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Fighting Florence: Loyola Students Check in on Family and Friends Impacted by Hurricane

Courtesy of NOAA SatellitesLoyola students checked up on family and friends who were impacted by Hurricane Florence, which rocked the East Coast in September.

While Hurricane Florence shook communities on the East Coast, Loyola students with loved ones in its path are still worried about how their families are handling the storm’s destruction.

Initially expected to be a Category 4 hurricane — the second highest classification of a hurricane — Florence made landfall in North Carolina Sept. 14 as a downgraded Category 1 hurricane, according to the National Weather Service, before continuing on its path as a tropical storm.

Jenna Tobillo, a 20-year-old junior studying nursing, said her boyfriend attends The University of Mount Olive in North Carolina, about two hours outside of Wilmington. Tobillo said her boyfriend was evacuated and drove to Chicago before the storm hit.

“I wasn’t too concerned because I knew they would have evacuations and he would get out of there in time,” Tobillo said.

Rick DiMaio, a Loyola adjunct professor with a specialty in meteorology, said the storm was stalled in North Carolina due to an upwell of cooler water. An upwell is when the warmer water from the ocean mixes with the hurricane and increases rainfall, letting the hurricane last longer in the same area, DiMaio said.

DiMaio said the hurricane was expected to be a Category 4 and hit Wilmington as a Category 3, but forty hours later was downgraded to a category 2.

According to the National Hurricane Center, categories are determined by the storm’s wind speed and estimated damage, but Florence’s wreckage came in its flooding. According to North Carolina Department of Public Safety, 5,214 people have been evacuated following the flooding at the time of publication.

On Sept. 11, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and South Carolina Gov. McMaster issued mandatory evacuations for their states’ coastal areas.

Swansboro, North Carolina received the brunt of the rainfall with 34 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service. As of publication, Florence claimed 35 lives in North Carolina, according to a press release from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. Additionally, nine died in South Carolina and two in Virginia, CBS17 reported.

Erin Goedecke, a 19-year-old sophomore studying French, said she has family living in Charleston, South Carolina who didn’t evacuate before the hurricane. She said although McMasters declared mandatory evacuation at noon Sept. 11, her family stayed.

“When [hurricanes] get closer in the Atlantic, my dad always calls it … once it goes down to Category 2, my dad knows it’s going to turn into a tropical storm,” Goedecke said.   

Goedecke watched as the storm came through her state, unable to be with her family.

“Mainly my concern was … I’m here and I can’t help my family,” Goedecke said. “It’s not that I felt powerless, but I felt helpless.” 

Katrina Nishioka, an 18-year-old first-year studying human resources management, also said she felt the distance during the storm while her cousin, who is a first-year at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, texted her updates.

“I was just worried about him being okay … just because it was my first year away at school and I hadn’t seen him in a few months I was more worried,” Nishioka said.

Tobillo said she watched from Chicago with her boyfriend as Florence swept through his college town and neighboring Wilmington.

“I was heartbroken for those people … he would see videos or pictures of his town or backroads of his town completely under water or destroyed,” Tobillo said.

Tobillo said she has had to send her boyfriend back to school in North Carolina before, but she said this time was different.

“It’s always hard to say goodbye, but I was a lot more worried saying goodbye this time because he had to drive through it,” Tobillo said. “Who knows what the road conditions would be like out there.”

Following the hurricane, North Carolina is moving from “response to recovery,” according to a statement from Cooper’s website. As of Monday, about 2,200 people in the state remain in shelters, down from a peak of about 20,000, according to the statement.

Gov. Cooper warned those in North Carolina to remain cautious of areas that are still flooded in a North Carolina Department of Public Safety press release.

Individuals can donate to victims of the storm through The American Red Cross website, or at the Starbucks located near the Lake Shore Campus, which is one of more than 8,000 Starbucks locations accepting donations for The American Red Cross via their mobile app or during a purchase.

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