Orientation Week Plagued by Natural Disasters
By THOMAS BOWMAN and ANNE ELDER
Irene Expected to Hit This Weekend; Preempted by Severe Thunderstorms
The day after freshmen moved in, Thursday, Aug. 25, a little taste of Hurricane Irene hit the University of Mary Washington.
At 4:36 p.m., the UMW Emergency Alert system sent out an e-mail instructing all students to seek shelter immediately. As trees fell on College Avenue and neighboring streets, the thunderstorm warning was extended until 5:42 p.m.
The Fredericksburg campus lost power until approximately 10:38 p.m., according to the alert system.
The Thursday thunderstorm and the upcoming hurricane are isolated incidents, however.
Fall classes were scheduled to begin on Monday, Aug. 29, however, with the threat of Hurricane Irene, classes were canceled Monday. Currently, students are expected to begin classes on Tuesday, Aug. 30. Move-in day for returning students has also been postponed to Monday, Aug. 29, according to the alert system.
Gov. Bob McDonnell issued a state of emergency for Virginia on Thursday, according to the Washington Post. While he did not mandate an evacuation, he has given local officials the authority to do so.
The Post reported that several Va. schools have been evacuating, including Old Dominion University in Norfolk, the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Norfolk State University in Norfolk, and Christopher Newport University in Newport News.
“We have a group that comes together and they do a good job handling emergencies like this hurricane and the earthquake earlier this week,” said UMW President Rick Hurley.
President Hurley also stated that the biggest dangers to UMW are falling trees or loss of power.
According to Hurley, we are one of Dominion Power’s first priorities, so if power does go out, and seek shelter in a single place.
5.9 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles Campus
The University of Mary Washington has suffered minimal damage after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck Fredericksburg at approximately 1:50 p.m. on Tuesday, according to the United States Geological Survey.
The earthquake’s epicenter was near Mineral, Virginia, about 38 mi away from Fredericksburg.
The schools emergency alert system told students at 2:39 p.m., “UMW has had a 5.9 earthquake. No serious damage or injuries report. Please remain outside of all buildings until a clear has been given by safety.”
The earthquake, which lasted 22 seconds according to the Associated Press, compelled UMW officials to evacuate the buildings on campus until they could assess the damage.
While damage to UMW was minimal, sections of campus have been roped off to prevent students from being hurt by falling debris knocked loose by the earthquake.
UMW President Rick Hurley stated that “this unexpected event tested us.”
While UMW has a procedure for expected events like upcoming hurricane Irene, but there are very few ways to prepare for an earthquake.
“We learned a lesson from that earthquake,” said Hurley. “Rick Pearce and I need to have walkie-talkies in our offices to contact emergency services and campus police.”
There was damage to several university buildings, including George Washington Hall, duPont Hall, Seacobeck Hall, and Goolrick Hall.
“I’ve never been in an earthquake before,” said Emily Thurston, marketing manager of Dining Services. “I thought it was a truck rumbling down College Avenue at first, but we were safely evacuated.”
Thurston stated that she is “glad to be back in the building so we can feed our students, faculty and staff.
Several students training to be orientation leaders were inside the Great Hall when the earthquake struck.
Foam on the ceiling of the Great Hall fell down, and the chandeliers were shaking, according to Suquoia Mosby, a junior.
“It scared the hell out of me,” Mosby said.
Mosby added that pipes were knocking against the wall and it sounded like people were stomping on the roof.
Sophomore June Walker was also in the Great Hall during the earthquake.
“It sounded like people were moving chairs around,” Walker said.
UMW permitted students to reenter the buildings at 3:53 p.m. Tuesday, but closed the school for business for the rest of the day at 3:00 p.m.