Lucye Rafferty/The Hoya Students trampled sections of Copley and Healy Lawns during football and rugby matches Thursday as Tropical Storm Isabel made its way through the Washington, D.C. metro area.

Last week Hurricane Isabel – downgraded to a tropical storm at 9 p.m. on Thursday evening – came and went as forecasted, but not without marking its territory by disturbing Georgetown students and faculty, on- and off-campus grounds, local businesses, city transportation systems and thousands of District residences.

While much of the student body took advantage of the inclement weather and sudden vacation, student businesses, university administrators, facilities workers and campus emergency team volunteers worked through the weekend in efforts to keep resources available for students and mitigate any potential consequences from the hurricane.

The university cancelled Thursday and Friday classes due to transportation hazards and the decision of the federal government to shut down. According to Provost James J. O’Donnell, the university made its first decision after consulting with administrators of the main, medical and law center campuses, facilities and the Department of Public Safety on Wednesday night. When the federal government and the schools made the same decision Thursday, and when Metro declined to say when they would run on Friday, Georgetown decided to cancel Thursday classes.

“We could not ask people to commute against such adverse circumstances. If we could ever depend entirely on people who were on campus or in walking distance, we might make a different decision sometime,” O’Donnell said. “Friday looked decent enough when you woke up, but if you got even two blocks away from campus, the labyrinth of downed trees in Georgetown, many of them still shutting off whole blocks on Saturday evening, and the nightmare of power outages throughout the metro area made it clear that it would not have been wise to ask people to come in. I very much regret losing the two days of classes, of course, but the timing and intensity of the storm were just wrong.”

Unlike university classes, campus businesses remained open throughout the storm. Sales remained high at Vital Vittles and ovie Mayhem, as students prepared for the hurricane by renting videos and buying food, batteries, toilet paper and other necessities.

“The lines were out of the door both nights,” Kelsey Shannon, president of the Corp, said of Movie Mayhem.

With the Corp’s increased sales, however, came the challenge of balancing the employees’ safety with the demand of student consumers.

“The store directors and departmental vice presidents had to make the important decision about when to open and close with very incomplete information. I think we made the right decision by staying open fairly late both nights, but leaving more than enough time for everyone to get home,” Shannon said.

The storm left thousands of Washington, D.C. households without power.

“We haven’t been able to cook any food in the past days, and have had to use the library for all computer usage. Until today we had electrical wires hanging down over our porch, which came down from a felled tree next door,” Lauren Eyler (COL ’05) said of her house on 37th and S St. Pepco, the primary electric company for the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, reported that 53,000 of its District area customers are still without power four days after the storm, but estimates that nearly all of their customers will have power by Friday of this week. Most students living in Burleith lost power in the storm on Thursday night and will not have power restored until Friday. “Our main concern has been walking back to our house in the pitch black at night,” Danielle Walsh (SFS ’05) said. “All of the traffic and street lights are out, and there really hasn’t been any increase of Metro forces.”

Students playing football and rugby on Copley and Healy Lawns on Thursday wore away the grass, leaving two muddy plains now roped off by caution tape to prevent students from creating additional damage. The storm felled trees on Reservoir Road and throughout parts of Burleith and Georgetown, including a small tree on Copley lawn.

“My sense is that the physical damage is fairly moderate and that it could have been a whole lot worse,” O’Donnell said. “Even if it had been a lot worse, we would have done well because of the teamwork between different offices in making preparations and in assuring the safety and comfort of the community.”

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.