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Friday, March 01, 2024

Students say late UF announcement, lack of Tuesday cancellation messed with Hurricane Ian planning

UF administration released directions nearly one day after other Florida universities

On Monday at approximately 8 p.m., UF announced a plan of action for Hurricane Ian — nearly seven hours after FSU and a full day after USF.

In chronological order, other public universities like USF, UCF and FSU, released directives for Hurricane Ian before UF. Some students have criticized UF’s response for a variety of reasons: not giving enough time to evacuate, disrupting exam schedules and having a slower response than other universities. 

Hailee Papa, an 18-year-old UF economics freshman from Jacksonville, said the lack of communication from UF was frustrating, adding her friends at other Florida universities received plans of action much earlier.

“Monday I was refreshing my email a lot because I wanted to beat the storm early but I had three exams this week,” Papa said. “I ended up driving to Jacksonville Tuesday evening.”

Waiting this long to give a statement didn’t give students adequate time to potentially travel without facing the consequences of a hurricane, Papa said.

As of Monday morning, Hurricane Ian was at Category 4 hurricane status, with winds close to that of a Category 5, according to CNN. The eyewall is currently moving onshore in Florida, predicted to cause at least 18 feet of storm surge in areas like Fort Myers. 

Alachua County is expected to face tropical storm winds beginning Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, according to the Alachua County website. There are concerns for isolated tornadoes in Northeast and North Central Florida during this same time period. 

Alachua County has been under a local state of emergency since Monday afternoon, with UF releasing directives late that evening, an hours-long gap.

Other students shared similar concerns to Papa.

Leah Simonds, an 18-year-old UF interior design freshman from the suburbs of Chicago, flew back home late Monday night before the cancellation announcement was released. 

“I was nervous about missing class,” she said. “But if I didn’t leave when I did, I wouldn’t have been able to leave at all because the airports close, which is also a huge reason why the school should’ve put out information sooner.”

As an out-of-state student who has never experienced a hurricane, Simons said she would have appreciated earlier notice.

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Many factors were considered with Hurricane Ian and campus closures, UF spokesperson Cynthia Roldan said in a statement.

“This storm has been more unpredictable than most, which has made the decision-making process challenging,” she said. “Leadership made the decision to cancel classes and close campus when it had enough information to do so.” 

Because classes weren’t canceled Tuesday, some were forced to grapple with exams rather than making a hurricane plan, whether that was evacuation or stocking up on supplies to shelter in place.

Tabatha Alfonso, a 20-year-old biology junior, said she was obligated to take a biochemistry exam on Tuesday, while her professor pushed back the exam two weeks for the Wednesday section of the class.

Contact Peyton at Follow her on Twitter @Peytonlharris.

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Peyton Harris

Peyton Harris is a first-year English major and the News Assistant for The Alligator. She is also a member of Zeta Tau Alpha and spends her free time re-listening to Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers and binging Criminal Minds.

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