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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Florida university students evacuate to and from Gainesville to avoid Hurricane Ian’s path

Students from UF and USF traveled across the state

<p>Students crowd Highway I-75 to evacuate the city in hopes of avoiding the hurricane. </p>

Students crowd Highway I-75 to evacuate the city in hopes of avoiding the hurricane.

When Tristen Ladika heard Hurricane Ian was going to hit Gainesville, she jumped into her red Prius and drove three and a half hours and more than 230 miles home to Jupiter, Florida.

The 20-year-old UF wildlife, ecology and conservation junior didn’t want to stay in her dated house in case the power went out, so she left Monday night, she said. She took her neighbor from Jupiter and her roommate along with her.

“It was so easy to drive last night,” Ladika said. “Now, the traffic is insane.”

When UF announced classes were canceled Wednesday through Friday, many students decided to go home or evacuate elsewhere after their classes Tuesday. Some students traveled to Gainesville from other Florida universities for safety.

Alachua County doesn’t have a mandatory evacuation order, making it a refuge for some. Instead, there’s an order for those in flood prone and low-lying areas, according to the Florida Division of Management. Other counties with a similar order include Polk, Putnam, Manatee and Nassau. 

Some UF students even decided to cross state lines to escape the storm.

Maria Adamitis, a 20-year-old UF biology junior, decided to go home to Missouri Tuesday.

Adamitis drove to Jacksonville Tuesday, spent the night at a hotel and flew out of an empty Jacksonville airport at 8 a.m. Wednesday, she said. 

Adamitis lives in the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority house and said she was worried about not having the right amenities. There’s no oven or stove in the house she can use, and she didn’t know if she had enough fridge space for extra food, she said.

“A lot of my friends were leaving town,” she said. “So I figured it was a good idea for me to leave, too.”  

Conversely, when Julia Gold, a 19-year-old USF marketing sophomore heard Sunday night there would be no classes during the week, she jumped in her car and headed to Gainesville. 

Gold came to Gainesville to stay with her boyfriend who attends UF, she said, because she was nervous about the hurricane and was advised to evacuate from her apartment in Tampa. 

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She piled clothes, valuable jewelry and a blanket knitted by her grandmother into the car because she feared they wouldn’t be safe back home. Gold left Monday afternoon to avoid traffic and her three roommates left USF to go home too, she said.

Hillsborough County, where USF’s main campus is, has a mandatory evacuation order for zones A and B and mobile homes, according to the Florida Division of Management. Her apartment is located in zone A, Gold said, so she decided to leave.

Tampa Bay is bracing for flooding and power outages with Ian approaching as a Category 4 hurricane with top winds of 155 mph.

The city of Gainesville has continually published updates about the hurricane on its website as it monitors the storm. The update from 10:30 a.m. Wednesday said the area is expecting up to two inches of rain and winds up to 39 mph.  

The Alachua County website provides tips for evacuation such as bringing copies of personal and financial information and getting supplies such as medication, water and a cell phone charger. 

Alachua County Emergency Management is also posting updates on its Facebook. It has information about locations and types of shelters people can go and where to pick up sandbags. 

The county’s evacuation order isn’t a general order, county spokesperson Mark Sexton said. The county is advising people who live in structures that may not be safe — like mobile homes and homes in flood-prone areas — to leave, he said.

County residents should first see if they have a friend or family member to stay with, Sexton said, but they could also stay at one of the four shelters.

There are two pet-friendly shelters located at Easton Newberry Archery Center at 24880 NW 16th Ave., Newberry, and at Eastside High School at 1201 SE 43rd St. The general population shelter is located at Meadowbrook Elementary School at 11525 NW 39th Ave. There is also a special needs shelter for service animals and their owners located at the Alachua County Senior Center at 5701 NW 34th Blvd. 

“We would encourage people to make their plans to get over to the shelters,” Sexton said. 

“We suggest people do what’s necessary to take advantage of those shelter opportunities.”

On the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website, there are tips for evacuating such as taking pets, listening to a battery-powered radio for updates and wearing clothes that provide protection such as long sleeve shirts and pants.

Contact Alexa Herrera at Follow her on Twitter @alexakherrera

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Alexa Herrera

Alexa Herrera is a junior journalism major who is the metro general assignment reporter for The Alligator. She is also a copy editor for The Florida Political Review and a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. In her free time she enjoys cheering on the New York Rangers during hockey season, listening to Harry Styles and spending time with her friends.

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