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Community Reflects on Connections to Hurricane Matthew

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Hurricane Matthew

UA freshman Faith Freeman’s family was in the face of Hurricane Matthew, the storm that had already killed hundreds of Haitians just days before. The threat of Matthew brought back memories of past storms her family had endured, and she could not avoid thinking about the worst.

Freeman is separated from her family by two states. They live in Orlando, Florida, one of the five states hit by the storm.  

“I was incredibly anxious though when my mom called and told me she was worried that if the storm cut over closer to the western side of Florida, we might lose our house,” Freeman said. “I started to panic because it reminded me of the uncertainty we faced during Ivan and Katerina, and I hated that I wasn't there for it. I just had to get updates when I could and wait for calls when my dad had a free moment to call. After the storm, I was anxious to hear how our house had fared and was relieved to hear that it had sustained minimal damage.”

There are approximately 475 students and faculty from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, the Bahamas and Haiti, all areas that Hurricane Matthew tore through, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment and Amanda Cantu, the director of Graduate School and International Education Communications.

UA graduate Simeon Hinsey saw the effects of the storm firsthand. Hinsey had visited the Bahamas in order to deliver shoes to kids through the iYES Foundation. Hinsey was also there to see his parents who live in Nassau. Though the foundation was successful in delivering some of the tennis shoes, its attention shifted to be a relief effort after the storm hit, Hinsey said.
“In Nassau, most of the people on the southern part of the island suffered from major flooding and lost everything in the interior of their homes,” Hinsey said. “The hardest hit area I visited was a town called Lowe Sound, Andros. The entire settlement was underwater during the storm. People lost everything.”

Nichelle Wilson-Parish, a UA art online lecturer, who was in Savannah, Georgia at the time of the storm, felt the effects of the storm immediately.
“We were under a mandatory evacuation and were not allowed to return to our home for four days,” Wilson-Parish said. “The whole city is covered by a tree canopy. Most of the trees fell into the streets or yards, but many homes were damaged or destroyed. Luckily, we did not have any damage upon returning, other than having to discard all of our perishable food items. Many of our neighbors were not so lucky.”

No students are studying abroad in the affected areas, Cantu said.

Junior Megan Lanier visited Haiti in the summer of 2014 with her family and other workers from Mission of Hope.

“We built houses for people who wouldn’t be able to afford housing otherwise,” Lanier said. “The country was so beautiful, but there was so much poverty. I definitely feel like Hurricane Matthew will affect Haiti because they are going to have a hard time rebuilding again after the damages.”

The hurricane killed 43 people in the United States as of Oct. 14, the Associated Press reported.

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