In the face of Hurricane Irma’s projected path involving the eye of the storm moving directly through the city of Plantation, school was cancelled after Wednesday, September 6 as students scrambled to evacuate from high-risk areas. By Friday, however, updated models projected Irma moving westward, with the brunt of the storm passing through Tampa, impacting students’ evacuation plans and experiences throughout the storm.
Few are as intimately acquainted with Hurricane Irma’s fickle ways as junior Anam Ahmed. Originally, Ahmed and her family had decided to brave the storm at home. However, come Thursday night, conversations with family friends ended up changing her family’s mind.
“Instead, we ended up being peer pressured into leaving to Tampa at 4 a.m. Friday morning with a group of people,” Ahmed said. “On the way, my friend’s cat pooped in the car, and we had to stop.”
Despite the pet-related mishaps, Ahmed and her family made the drive to Tampa. Upon arrival, they were startled to find the house they’d rented lacked shutters or anything remotely resembling hurricane protection.
“It was really weird, but it made us think that the hurricane wouldn’t be as bad in Tampa,” Ahmed said. “Anyway, we had bigger problems, like the fact that it was my sister’s birthday, and the hurricane was stealing her thunder. My dad ended up buying her cake, so we made the most of the situation.”
Hurricane Irma didn’t allow the party to last long. A few hours into Ahmed’s stay, models showed Irma’s projected path had changed so the eye passed right through Tampa.
“It was ironic that we left to escape the storm but it ended up following us,” Ahmed said. Her family ended up driving to Orlando and waiting out the storm there.
“It’s definitely a story to laugh about, but not now because we just want to go home,” she said.
While senior Stefan Abi-Karam stayed local in the face of hurricane Irma, his experience was no less unique.
Abi-Karam’s father works for the local government as the assistant director for public works, part of which entails spending storms in a major water treatment plant for the city of Fort Lauderdale to manage the fresh water and sewage water systems during the storms. During hurricane Irma, Abi-Karam and the rest of his family accompanied his father to the plant and spent nearly two days there.
“It was really cool,” he said. “The place was built like a fortress.”
Complete with extra security, redundant backup generators and fortified windows, the water treatment plant provided Abi-Karam’s family with a measure of safety. During his stay, Abi-Karam was also afforded luxuries many Florida residents lacked during the hurricane, including regular power and Internet.
“I could keep my friends updated on the storm because I knew a lot of them lost power. Even my home lost power while I was there,” Abi-Karam said. “In fact, part of my science research project this year tackles the issue of how to keep everyone updated in real-time even when there is no power during a storm.”
Abi-Karam spent the brunt of the storm alongside treatment plant workers and government officials alike who toiled endlessly to ensure water safety for south Florida residents.
“Without these people’s skills, expertise and constant work, modern amenities that we take for granted, like [clean] water, would not exist at all. They keep everything running smoothly and everyone safe,” he said.
In the wake of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Irma, administrators have cancelled school until Monday, Sept. 18 due to flooding at school and the prolonged return time of evacuees.