For students like Adela Wiercioch, an 18-year-old UF pre-med biology freshman, being away from home during a hurricane was strange.
“[It was] definitely disorienting,” she said. “Being in semi-unfamiliar surroundings did make me a little more on-edge than I may have been otherwise.”
Her hometown Palm Harbor experienced more damage than UF’s main campus, where she stayed during the hurricane, Wiercoich said. While her family was safe, the storm hit heavily not too far from them.
“My specific region of the hometown seems to be fine-ish from what I’ve heard from family,” she said. “But the news says areas within a 20-ish [mile] radius got a lot of water, especially if they’re near the beaches.”
Idalia made landfall as a Category 3 storm roughly 90 miles west of Gainesville at Keaton Beach 8 a.m. Aug. 29. While initially predicted to bring large wind and rain to Alachua County, the area was mostly spared.
The UF campus in Gainesville experienced only downed tree limbs and minor building leaks, UF Spokesperson Florida Bridgewater-Alford said.
Two UF/IFAS extension facilities in Cedar Key and Live Oak were more significantly affected by storm surges, flooding and power outages, Bridgewater-Alford said. The Florida 4-H Camp Cherry Lake in Madison also saw a large number of fallen trees, but no buildings were damaged.
“The university is swiftly working to restore normalcy to these facilities and provide resources to those affected,” Bridgewater-Alford wrote. “UF will learn more after continued evaluation of the facilities.”
More severe damage dealt to other UF properties across Florida is still being assessed.
UF students were relieved the hurricane’s damage wasn’t more devastating locally.
Resli Ward, an 18-year-old UF biology and history freshman, has lived in Gainesville her whole life and went home when classes were canceled for the hurricane, she said.
While she wasn’t on campus to experience the hurricane, Ward said UF did a good job of communicating about the storm.
“They sent out text alerts and email alerts,” she said. “They made it very clear what was happening and what the plan was.”
Hurricane Idalia ended up dealing less damage in the area than Ward initially expected, she said.
“There was some property damage, but not as much as we saw in Irma,” Ward said. “It kind of missed us at the last second there, from what I can tell.”
Andy Gatlin, an 18-year-old UF sustainability freshman from the Tampa area, stayed on campus during the hurricane and appreciated UF’s communication and the adjustments made in the dining halls for the storm.
Students were given “to-go boxes” Tuesday night and offered discounts if they didn’t have meal plans on Wednesday, he said.
“I’ve been in Florida my entire life and was not worried about the hurricane,” Gatlin said. “But I like to think that the measures UF took made those wary feel at ease.”
The aftermath of the hurricane was worse in Gatlin’s hometown, he said.
“In the Tampa area, flooding is a big problem,” he said. “A friend of mine was unable to leave her home because her car and driveway were flooded.”
UF’s Dean of Students Office is providing emergency financial aid through the university’s Aid-A-Gator program to more than 13,000 students from 31 Florida counties and eight Georgia counties who were most severely affected by the storm, according to Bridgewater-Alford.
“As the assessment of damages continues across the state, the University of Florida remains committed to the safety of its students, faculty and staff,” Bridgewater-Alford wrote.
Bailey Diem is a first-year journalism major at UF and is the Santa Fe Reporter for The Alligator for Fall 2023. When not reporting, Bailey can be found playing guitar or getting lost in a book.
Garrett Shanley is a third-year journalism and history major and The Alligator's Fall 2023 university administration reporter. In his free time, Garrett can be found watching Wong Kar-Wai movies and brooding.