Hurricane Isaac Disrupts Non-local Students at Tulane University: Reflecting on Hurricane Isaac From a College Perspective

Flooding from an overtopped levee inundated the community of Braithwaite, La. with floodwaters from Hurricane Isaac Thursday,
Flooding from an overtopped levee inundated the community of Braithwaite, La. with floodwaters from Hurricane Isaac Thursday, August 30, 2012. The levee break in the foreground was cut to relieve the flooding. Isaac soaked Louisiana for yet another day and pushed more water into neighborhoods all around the city, flooding homes and forcing last-minute evacuations and rescues. New Orleans itself was spared, thanks in large part to a levee system built after Katrina. (AP Photo/The Times-Picayune, John McCusker) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; USA TODAY OUT

Hurricane Isaac, which made landfall just in time for the first week of school, marked the first time many Tulane Students experienced a hurricane. On the eve of Hurricane Katrina's 7th anniversary in New Orleans, students found themselves anxiously awaiting Hurricane Isaac's arrival. Only time could tell if Katrina's destructions would be mirrored or forgotten.

Tulane University created a unique situation where a group of non-locals sat in the path of Hurricane Isaac. A large majority of Tulane's population is not from New Orleans, the south, or an area accustomed to hurricanes. The largest percentile of students, 35 percent precisely, are from the Northeast, while only 14 percent are from Louisiana.

The University enacted a "stay-put evacuation plan," where students chose whether to evacuate or stay in their dorms for the duration of the storm. The school released updates periodically to students and parents through email and their emergency update website.

"My new roommates and I spent our first few days of the semester stocking up on non-perishables and moving furniture away from windows," explained Nicole Duggan, a junior from New York.

Attendance at Tulane's first day of classes was optional so students could leave town if desired and classes were canceled for the rest of the week. Many students drove to cities nearby such as Memphis, Houston, and Baton Rouge. "The drive was brutal. I could barley sleep the night before since I was nervous, and there was so much traffic leaving New Orleans. It took us nine hours to get to Memphis," said Yael Ginsburg, a Tulane junior from Texas.

When the storm came, students who chose to stay on campus faced a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 80 miles per hour. During the storm, students on campus were given rationed food such as bread and cheese. Residents were asked to sleep in their hallways, since sleeping near windows could be dangerous.

"In a way, it was a bonding experience," remarked Tulane RA, Hallie Marx, a sophomore from New York. "Residents were uncomfortable, but it always could have been worse," she stated.

Tulane students who evacuated were allowed to re-enter campus the Saturday after Isaac passed. Many did not even experience the extreme weather. "It's the weirdest feeling. We left when it was sunny and came back when it was sunny. Trees were down, but since I've never experienced a hurricane, it's hard to imagine what really happened," said Courtney Kulchin, a Tulane junior who calls New York her home.

Tulane University ensures that students know from the start the dangers of hurricanes. All new students must complete a Hurricane Evacuation Plan to be a student of good standing. At new student orientation, a presentation is given on hurricane safety. The school has even coined the term "Hurrication" to describe the process where Tulane's campus evacuates before the city of New Orleans does.

When surveyed, most Tulane students from the northeast agreed the chance of a hurricane was not a factor in their decision to attend the school. "It seemed like something that would never happen," remarked Kulchin. "If I knew a hurricane would definitely hit, I don't know if I would have gone to Tulane, but I'm glad I did," she said.

Jason Shinners, another junior from New York, claims he expected a hurricane to hit, but didn't weigh it into his decision to attend Tulane. "I chose Tulane because it's a good school with a nice campus, and they gave me a scholarship." He continued, "the possibility of a hurricane has always been in the back of my mind, but I thought after Katrina, the worst was over."