Matthew Bell is one of many students at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University from the Atlantic coastal region who was impacted by one of the most powerful hurricanes observed in the Atlantic since 2007.
Before making its way to the state’s capital, Hurricane Irma caused severe damage throughout the Caribbean. One island that was devastated was St. Maarten, Bell’s home. “Part of the roof from my mom’s house was blown off and my dad’s house doesn’t have any electricity or running water right now…,” Bell said.
The island of St. Maarten was hit by the Category 5 Hurricane Irma on Sept. 6. Several media outlets reported widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure the following day.
Hurricane Irma’s wrath also caused major damage and flooding in popular Florida areas like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Jacksonville.
Located in North-Central Miami-Dade County, Miami Gardens is just one of the sectors in the major port city. Freshman Ayani White is a Miami Gardens native who said her grandmother was without electricity for a week after the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
“There were no damages, but my grandma didn’t have lights for a week. In preparation, they could have had a generator and a lot more food than they did,” White said.
According to the Washington Post, the Fort Lauderdale area sustained dangerous 70-mph winds that gusted up to 90-mph. This was far less furious than what was predicted days earlier than the evening of Sept. 10.
Janay White, a senior Criminal Justice student, said that although the hurricane was more severe in the Miami and Caribbean area, Fort. Lauderdale still experienced Irma’s impact.
“Miami got hit with the hurricane a lot worse than Fort Lauderdale did,” White said. “A lot trees fell and there was flooding, but not too major. There was nothing catastrophic,” she continued. “I think they prepared as much as they could, but as far as trees, my grandma has a lot of coconut trees in her backyard and they were full of coconuts, and they all came down. I believe it actually fell on her roof.”
White said she stayed in contact with her family in Fort Lauderdale while she remained in Tallahassee during the hurricane, and said that she was concerned, “because I don’t think they took it as serious as they should have. I don’t think they really prepared and they didn’t think they were going to get hit with the hurricane at all.”
Following the hurricane, Bell took the initiative to use Facebook to connect with those affected. He then created a GoFundMe account to serve as financial relief following the aftermath. Bell plans on allocating 10 percent of the funds collected toward the damages his family is currently dealing with and the other 90 percent to a certified grassroots based organization on the island. Currently, Bell has raised $1,793 in donations.
“A few days later I went to Facebook to connect friends and people who lost each other, and couldn’t get in contact with each other at the time, and I created a GoFundMe as well,” Bell said.
According to FAMU’s 2016-2017 Fact Book on student enrollment, a combined 29 percent of students enrolled are from the Broward, Dade, Duval areas or outside of the United States – leaving a great deal of students impacted by Hurricane Irma’s destructive path.