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In the aftermath: FGCU recovers from Irma

It’s been five days since Hurricane Irma made landfall on South Florida’s West Coast, leaving millions without electricity and many more with the arduous task of clean up and restoration. 

FGCU, along with all affected areas, is still trying to get back on its feet after being battered by Hurricane Irma’s 130 mph winds, and while the campus sustained no severe damage, there is still a long road to recovery ahead. 

In an email sent to all students, faculty and staff, FGCU spokeswoman Susan Evans detailed the current state of the University and informed students of what they can expect as they prepare to return to campus. 

FGCU is set to reopen on Monday, Sept. 18, but this may change after FGCU’s emergency team holds a meeting on Friday, Sept. 15, to determine if an additional delay may be necessary.  Evans wrote that students should expect to hear an announcement of the University’s decision this Friday at 1 p.m. 

“One of the greatest challenges is that Hurricane Irma affected so many FGCU, students, faculty, and staff who reside throughout Southwest Florida,” Evans said. “Some evacuated to other states and parts of Florida before the storm arrived, and now are faced with limited gasoline and transportation options.  

Others who did not evacuate and are able to remain living in their significantly or minimally damaged residences are doing so without electricity, cell service, water, or Internet access…While our campus did not sustain major damage to buildings and we do have electricity, the ability for students, faculty, and staff to be in place on Monday is also a consideration.” 

While it’s still up in the air when FGCU will open next week, Evans reminded students, faculty, and staff that they should not cancel events or activities without first seeking approval from the Vice President of Student Affairs. 

In the email, Evans announced that FGCU main campus is now back on the grid, with electricity and Internet access at full function. However, West Lake Village Housing is still in the dark, and when power will be restored there is still unknown.  

According to Florida Power and Light, West Lake residents, along with thousands of other south Floridians, may have to wait until the end of next week before they are able to switch on the lights. 

“We have 500 students who call West Lake Village home, and we are looking at various options for their relocation,” Evans said. “Please check your Housing communications for the most current information.” 

In the email, Evans also updated students on FGCU’s newest residents: evacuees.  

During Irma, FGCU opened its doors to residents all across southwest Florida. According to Evans’s email, Alico Arena sheltered 1,432 members of the community, and continues to act as a temporary home to members of the public as South Florida recovers from Irma’s ferocious winds. 

“As of a couple of hours ago, we have approximately 600 people living in the Arena including citizens, National Guard members, and American Red Cross representatives,” Evans said. 

Lutgert and Marieb Halls also served as shelters, but all of the occupants inside have since been relocated to the Arena. 

In addition to providing general information on the campus, Evans also briefed faculty and staff on payment options, office accessibility, and volunteer opportunities. 

Evans urged faculty to come to campus only if they need to.  

“If you do not need to come to campus, please don’t. Roads throughout Lee county are jammed with people out looking for gas and supplies, and our campus roads are busy with clean-up crews and evacuees.” 

In the final notes of the email, Evans urged students and staff to have patience with the University as plans continue to evolve. 

“As we consider the many, many moving parts and also the varied individual situations of our students, faculty, and staff, we recognize that some days may feel more like questions than answers,” Evans said.  

“We will continue to work diligently to support the FGCU family, and to communicate information as timely as possible. Please continue to share information from these updates with your FGCU colleagues so we can get the word out to as many people as possible in as many ways as possible.” 

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