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FGCU prepares for Tropical Storm Erika

With the first storm of the 2015 Hurricane Season Danny growing to a Category 3 then quickly weakening, FGCU students didn’t seem to have much to worry about. However, there’s a new contestant in town — Tropical Storm Erika. While it is expected to reach us on Sunday, the National Hurricane Center stated that the storm will likely weaken and even dissipate within 12 to 24 hours of impacting Florida.

So, while Erika’s not predicted to do much damage to the Fort Myers area, Governor Rick Scott issued a State of Emergency Friday night, and some Eagles may be worried, especially if they’ve never experienced a hurricane before.

Here’s the 4-1-1 on all things hurricane — from how they form, to what to buy if things get ugly.

Hurricanes, which are storms that form over the Atlantic or eastern Pacific Ocean, are born when warm air rises from the water, causing an area of lower air pressure below the air that’s rising. As more warm air rises, the classic swirl that’s seen on the news forms over the ocean.

Heavy rain and strong winds often accompany hurricanes, which begin as tropical storms once the winds reach 39 miles per hour. After the winds reach 74 miles per hour, the storm can then be called a tropical cyclone or a hurricane.

They are categorized by a five-point scale, ranging from 1 (minimal damage once it hits land) to a 5 (catastrophic damage). While the last hurricane to actually hit and do severe damage to Florida was Wilma in October of 2005, Hurricane Sandy did graze the east coast before heading up north in 2012.

Jessica Augustin, an FGCU freshman and Florida native, isn’t worried about the storm at all.

“I haven’t been paying attention to the news that much since classes have just started, so I don’t know how serious it is right now,” Augustin said. “Florida hasn’t had a serious hurricane in years, so I’m not that worried.”

A Hazard Advisory was sent out to all students by University Police Chief Steve Moore both Thursday and Friday, addressing the storm and the effects that FGCU might receive.

“Tropical Storm Erika continues to progress through the Caribbean,” Moore wrote in the first email. “Since yesterday the track has moved slightly to the east, which is good for the FGCU area.”

In the second message, Moore stated that with current projections, Sunday and Monday could leave FGCU with winds of 30-40 miles per hour, and that university staff will begin making preparations for the storm, such as securing pool furniture and construction sites. Moore will send another update no later than Sunday.

In case of a hurricane caused power outage, students should keep flashlights handy and plenty of bottled water and non-perishable food items. Dorm bathrooms could also make great hurricane shelters, but any room with no windows could suffice.

Students are encouraged to register their cell phones for emergency text messages from the FGCU Alert system for updates on the storm.

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