Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Hurricane Matthew, the tropical storm that swept across the southeastern seaboard and spanned five states, ravaged many communities — including regions a number of Yalies call home.
Matthew first gained hurricane status late September as it approached the eastern Caribbean. On Oct. 4, the then-Category 4 hurricane reached Haiti and Cuba, leading to a death toll of over 1,000 Haitians alone. Matthew then tore through the Bahamas before arriving at the Florida coast Friday morning. It continued to flank the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coastline before hitting U.S. soil on Oct. 8 as a Category 1 hurricane in McClellanville, South Carolina.
The day after it landed, Matthew dissipated into a post-tropical storm and departed the U.S. coast, leaving excessive flooding in its wake. With the American death toll standing at 36 as of Tuesday night, members of the Yale community with family and friends in the South remain in an awkward limbo.
Five states away from his hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina, Joshua Mathew ’19 could only watch as Fayetteville received a torrential 15 inches of rainfall, which led to flooding, downed trees and forced evacuation.
“It was quite jarring to see pictures of the flooding and destruction caused by the hurricane,” Mathew said. “It definitely feels strange being detached from the situation.”
Mathew encouraged students to check in with fellow Yalies whose families may have been affected, adding that it goes a long way in lending support.
Elizabeth Felix ’19 of Hilton Head, South Carolina, said that parts of her hometown were destroyed, but social media has allowed her to remain in contact with friends and family back home during this trying period.
“Some of the most beautiful parts of the island are underwater,” Felix said. “It’s going to be a tough comeback for a lot of people, but the community is incredible at working together.”
Felix also highlighted the support she received from Branford Head of College Elizabeth Bradley GRD ’96, as well as friends in the Yale community.
While communities in Florida experienced Hurricane Matthew’s wrath, three Floridian students said their home state is well-equipped to handle hurricanes in general. Although those students mentioned flooding and debris caused by Matthew, they also pointed out that many regions withstood the brunt of Hurricane Matthew well, owing to infrastructure designed to handle Category 5 hurricanes following destructive hurricanes in the mid-2000s.
“Even when physical damages are terrible, houses and infrastructure can be rebuilt, but things like good memories and personal tokens can’t be replaced no matter how much fundraising occurs, and this is often the hardest to deal with,” said Alexa Kalandiak ’18, who hails from Coral Gables, Florida.
While some students interviewed are looking for primarily emotional support, others have mentioned they would like to receive academic support — such as extensions for quizzes and assignments — so they can visit home.
Administrators said they were aware of the situation and working to address it.
“My main strategy has involved informally checking in individually with students who live near affected areas,” Silliman Head of College Laurie Santos said, adding that she has had conversations with students from Florida and Jamaica.
While the imminent threat of Hurricane Matthew has passed, the lingering effects of flooding remain: Many households continue to be evacuated and remain without electricity.
“It is truly horrifying to see some of the damage that has been done,” Florida native Kendall Brent ’20 said. “I am thankful that everyone in my community is safe and unaffected, and I hope that we can all find a way to reach out in order to help everyone that has been affected.”
Hurricane Matthew is the deadliest hurricane to reach the continental U.S. since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.