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Hurricanes batter Notre Dame students’ hometowns

Rachael Schermitzler | Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Four hurricanes and a tropical storm have battered the hometowns of many Notre Dame students, leaving some relatively unharmed and others devastated.

Junior Van Koppersmith said his hometown of Moblie, Ala. suffered moderate damage.

“We were fairly unscathed,” Koppersmith said. “A 20-foot oak and a crabapple tree were all [my family] lost, and then just tons of debris in our yard.”

Pensacola, Fla. resident Chase Gund, a sophomore, reported a more drastic experience.

“This is the worst hurricane Pensacola has seen since Frederic 35 years ago,” Gund said of Hurricane Ivan, a category five storm that struck Pensacola two weeks ago. “It looks like a bomb has gone off. Any building of any significant stature has had [its] roof torn off.”

International students were not also effected by the storms.

“My country turned the power off before the hurricane was supposed to hit,” said Puerto Rico native Pablo Diaz, a freshman whose island felt the effects of Tropical Storm Jeanne. “After the tropical storm hit, my country couldn’t get the power back on [for a week].”

Despite the havoc the storms wreaked, many residents were not forced to evacuate.

“My family didn’t do anything to prepare our house,” Koppersmith said. “We’ve never really worried much about shattering windows and there’s not much you can do if a 50-foot pine is going to fall on your house.”

In Puerto Rico, the dynamics are different.

“We live in an area where the houses are made of concrete,” Diaz said. “But not all of Puerto Rico lives in concrete houses, so the most affected were those who lived in houses made of wood.”

Many residents who heard hurricane destruction rates did not evacuate either.

“The part of Pensacola where I live, Escambia county, is a little higher than the rest of Pensacola, so we usually don’t get flooding or anything like that,” Gund said. “But most everyone else I went to school with evacuated.”

Hurricane Ivan was the deadliest hurricane to hit the United States since Floyd in 1999, killing 103 people in the Caribbean and United States. It was preceded by Hurricane Frances and Hurricane Charley.