Hurricane preparation pays,
especially when it comes with a healthy helping of good fortune.
University of Tampa escaped the ravages of Hurricane Frances with minimum damage
to the campus and little more than a dose of boredom for the estimated 2,500
students who stayed on campus and hunkered down for the duration of the
The most fortunate bit of luck was that most of the campus never
lost power through the four days of rain and winds that Tampa experienced; so
water pressure, electrical power, phone service, cell phones, Internet and Web
site all operated throughout the storm. Much of the rest of Tampa was not that
fortunate, as spotty power outages occurred throughout the Bay area.
experienced partial loss of power in the library, McKay residence hall and
Res-com housing complex, resulting in the loss of air conditioning for a brief
There were a high number of inquiries on the UT Web, presumably
from parents and relatives who wanted to stay informed on the status of the
campus. Most of the students said that as long as their parents could reach them
via cell phone or e-mail, they were not "too concerned."
Staff was brought in to provide round-the-clock service so that callers
would have someone to answer their questions.
Students were rather
resourceful about entertaining themselves. There were impromptu slip-and-slide
sessions on the lawn and beach volleyball contests between the rain
"I thought it was going to be a lot worse than it was," said
Rebecca Calix, a second-semester freshman from Long Island, NY. "It was kind of
fun. We ran around in the rain and played soccer and football."
who wanted to stay dry, the University provided first-run movies in each
residence hall, and in the Vaughn Center's Reeves Theatre. The McNiff Fitness
Center was staffed by students, and the Martinez gym and weight room were open.
The Spartan club also was opened to provide some diversion with electronic
games, Foosball and pool.
"We were determined to stay one step ahead of
this storm as best we could," said President Ron Vaughn, who serves as head of
the core Emergency Operations Team, which began regular meetings on Wednesday
when Hurricane Frances was still located in the Bahamas.
The team met
each day during the weekend, refining its responses, changing messages on the
Web site, issuing global e-mails and voice-mail messages, and updating the media
on emergency planning.
In order to provide uninterrupted services, the
core team brought in a number of staff and their families to stay in University
quarters for the duration of the emergency. President Vaughn and other key
Emergency Operations Team members also slept on campus so that they could
continuously check on students and respond to any emergencies that might
While the wind and
rain were bad, they were nothing compared to what residents experienced on the
East Coast. By the time Frances got to Tampa on Sunday afternoon, she had been
downgraded to Tropical Storm status with steady winds of about 40 miles per hour
and gusts a bit higher.
Rain and possible coastal flooding were the big
concerns as the backside of Frances moved through Tampa early Monday morning. A
tidal surge of several feet came up the Hillsborough River, and water lapped
into Plant Park and within 10 feet of McKay Hall.
Although no evacuations
were ordered, the Emergency Team moved resident students on the first floor of
McKay hall to another residence hall as a precaution. They were allowed to
return to their rooms later that day.Minimal Damage
There was a long list of minor damage such as broken windows, leaky window
sills, soaked carpets, broken limbs and five downed trees. Of course, the campus
was littered with leaves and other wind-blown debris.
Work crews were out
early Tuesday morning after the winds began to subside.
few individual students, and members of Phi Beta Sigma and Zeta Phi Beta, were
out with rakes, brooms and gloves.
"We took a day off from classes, but
that doesn't mean you take a day off from life," said Jamal Wilburg, chapter
president of Phi Beta Sigma. "We wanted to help out. It's our campus, and we
want people to see a beautiful place." Members of the UT women's soccer team
practiced on Tuesday, and a number of other teams were gearing up to resume
"I'm very pleased with the way the campus community, and the
students especially, conducted themselves, throughout this emergency. It could
have been much worse, and I think our community pulled together in a very
positive way," said President Vaughn.