Courtesy NOAA

Strong winds blowing nearly 60 miles per hour blew across campus Thursday morning. By mid-afternoon, dampened posters were strewn across a desolate Red Square as Hurricane Isabel moved north to Washington, D.C., after making landfall early Thursday on the North Carolina coast.

The hurricane reached the District last night, bringing down trees and forcing local businesses and residences along the waterfront to reinforce areas vulnerable to flooding with sandbags.

The university was closed Thursday and Friday, all classes were cancelled and student clubs suspended their activities in anticipation of the storm, a category two hurricane that brought extensive wind and rain to the District early yesterday before the arrival of the hurricane around 2 a.m. this morning.

The National Weather Service had a tropical storm warning in effect for the Chesapeake Bay area from Smith Point northward, which includes the tidal Potomac River area. After making landfall off the Outer Banks in North Carolina, the storm moved north through Virginia and Maryland before continuing through Pennsylvania and as far north as Quebec.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Anthony Williams declared a state of emergency in the District at 4 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon in anticipation of localized flooding, heavy rain and winds of up to 60 mph that are predicted to continue today as a result of the storm. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority suspended etrobus and Metrorail operations yesterday beginning at 11 a.m.

Heavy rainfall in the spring and summer has left the ground waterlogged which increased chances for flooding along the riverfront, local authorities have warned.

University officials had been preparing for the storm, making efforts to ensure that students were aware of the current weather situation and the necessary precautions to take.

In an e-mail sent to all students, Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Spiros Dimolitsas referred students to the website, which provided students with a list of precautions, including moving items away from windows and clearing patio areas of all objects “that could become projectiles in high winds.”

Assistant Vice President for Communications Julie Green Bataille said that the university’s Emergency Response Team met frequently over the past two days in preparation for the storm. Bataille said that this team has readied sandbags, tested backup power generators, removed potential debris and taken many other preventive measures.

“Take the precautions seriously,” Bataille said, “Take a moment to clear items away from windows. As information is available we’ll certainly have it out to students.”

This team discussed appropriate actions to take during the storm with various university departments, including university facilities and student housing, DPS and building marshals. According to Bataille, facilities staff and DPS officers will work extra shifts and remain on-call in order to respond if a weather-related incident occurs.

Bataille said the decision to close the university is based on the day’s forecast, the impact or projected impact of the severe weather and the transportation needs of students and staff.

Students and faculty living off-campus as well as others seeking a place to gather during the height of the storm were invited to come to either Hoya Court or the Village C Alumni Lounge, where a sing-along with Father Pat Conroy, S.J., was planned for Thursday evening.

Student reactions to the media attention and public information announcements leading up to the hurricane varied. “I live two blocks from the beach,” Stephanie Wappel (COL ’07) said “I’m used to the effects of hurricanes.” Wappel also said that the effects of hurricane Isabel will be mitigated, given that Washington, D.C. is located on the Potomac and not directly on the ocean like New Jersey and South Carolina, where she is from.

“There will be a lot of rain, a lot of winds . ” Rob Alaimo (SFS ’07) said, “but nothing too extreme. The [Washington] monuments are not going to be destroyed.”

Other students, many of whom hailed from inland states and had never before witnessed a hurricane, said they felt excitement as the storm approached.

“I’m from Minnesota,” Tyseer Khaled (COL ’07) said, “So I’m just like, `Yes! Hurricane!’.”

The buildup to the storm prompted an array of activities across the campus on Wednesday night, with some students preparing for the pending storm and others reveling in a reprieve from Thursday’s classes.

The Hoya Snaxa shop in the Southwest Quad experienced an increase in sales of cups and mixers Wednesday night cashier Leslie Baldwin (COL ’04) said. Some students took precautionary safety measures.

“Me and my roommate taped up our windows. I don’t think we needed to,” Natasha Anand (MSB ’07) said.

Students’ plans for activities to do during the storm ranged from staying inside to studying to frolicking outside in the rain and wind.

“I plan [to run] out into the storm and shake my fists at the sky,” Chris Cairns (SFS ’07) said.

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