By Stephanie Stanavich
Hurricane Matthew was set to be a category four hurricane, which can mean winds ranging from 131 to 155 mph. Although Ohio is far from Matthew’s reach, many Youngstown State University students and their families are still impacted by the large storm.
Tori Gilkinson went to YSU for marketing but recently moved to Jacksonville, Florida, because her boyfriend received a job offer that was hard to refuse.
Gilkinson explained that many Floridians she spoke with brushed off the storm, because they’ve dealt with hurricanes before, but Gilkinson said she was still terrified.
“It was all over the news,” Gilkinson said. “I tried to expect and prepare myself for the worst.”
Learning how to adjust to Florida and its weather is challenging, especially for someone who was born and raised in Ohio, a state that isn’t familiar with many natural disasters.
She and her boyfriend glued themselves to the 24-hour news station and prepared for the worst using checklists given to them by their apartment complex.
“We were told that we were going to lose power for a few days up to a few weeks,” Gilkinson said. “We took a trip to Walmart for food, water and supplies. It was a madhouse, and the entire store was picked over.”
When the power goes out, the water supply is affected as well. Gilkinson and her boyfriend filled up their bathtub to the brim days before the storm to ensure they had access to fresh water. They also made sure to buy coolers to keep their refrigerated items cold.
“[We] were extremely fortunate during this hurricane … my area, we got lucky” Gilkinson said. “We are only five miles off the coast, and the winds only got up to about 60 … but buildings and homes closer to the coast fell to pieces. We pray for the people that no longer have homes or businesses.”
Maria LaRocca, a student at YSU, has family that lives in Port Orange, Florida. Her family evacuated their home before the hurricane hit.
“My sister runs a Five Guys in Daytona and was unable to evacuate until the day the hurricane was predicted, but her kids evacuated earlier and stayed at Disney Sport Resort,” LaRocca said. “They even brought the dog with extra food and beverages with them to the hotel.”
LaRocca’s sister, niece, nephew and sister’s fiancé had survived Hurricane Katrina and knew how to prepare to keep themselves safe.
“It was very nerve-wracking to be so far away from them in such a troubling time, but the constant communication and their positive attitudes helped a lot,” LaRocca said.
LaRocca received multiple photos of the damage done to her sister’s neighborhood in Port Orange. She said there was a lot of damage done to the Port Orange neighborhood, but luckily, her sister’s house was fine.
Hannah Lanza, a YSU student, also has family in Florida that survived Hurricane Matthew.
“My father, stepmom, sister, brother and grandma prepared themselves for the storm by tying down everything outside and moving a lot inside,” Lanza said. “They have hurricane shutters, extra food and a generator.”
Most of the damage that was done where her family lives was due to heavy flooding. Many road lights and signs were down and communities lost electricity for hours.
Lanza’s father and his family have experienced hurricanes before, so the family decided not to evacuate from their home.
“My dad did not want to run away from the storm. Life moves on, and he still has to work and live his normal life,” Lanza said. “I was more concerned for my younger siblings, who didn’t have a chance to make their own decision.”
According to the New York Times, 14 people lost their lives due to hurricane Matthew, and 650,000 people are left without power. Due to the flooding and damage, Floridians are being granted more time to register to vote in the election.