UCF students, parents doubt a Tuesday return to campus

UPDATE: UCF will be closed through Wednesday, Sept. 13 due to Hurricane Irma, according to a UCF alert. 

UCF student Makena Bement didn’t plan to spend her weekend seeking refuge from one of the strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricanes ever recorded.

But the political science major felt she had no other choice.

A Sept. 5 UCF alert announced classes and campus closures would start Thursday, Sept. 7, and last until Tuesday, Sept. 12, in response to Hurricane Irma.

Bement took the announcement to heart, but still planned to ride out the hurricane in the UCF area.

However, a shifting forecast cone has led Bement and others, such as UCF student Logan Elmore, to flee the state entirely. Bement drove to Alabama, while 20-year-old Elmore sought safety in Tennessee.

Now the two are worried about making it back in time for Tuesday classes.

Hundreds of miles away, Bement and Elmore claimed it’s impossible to say whether the campus’ status Tuesday will allow classes to resume.

The students said they doubt they will be able to return for the university’s planned reopening due to potentially hazardous weather and wind speeds.

“I don’t think it will be safe at all,” said Elmore, a graphic design major. “That’s honestly a big concern of mine considering that once the hurricane impacts on Sunday and Monday, as the radar suggests, it’s going to trickle up through Georgia throughout and will make traveling back difficult and still dangerous.”

UCF parent Craig Appleman agreed.

A South Florida resident for 40 years, Appleman is not even sure his freshman daughter “is going to be able to get out of [their] neighborhood with all the possible tree damage, yet alone the possible standing water.”

Appleman said the university waited too long to cancel classes and close the main campus. However, 18-year-old Bement said the timeliness of UCF’s closure announcement was fine, but the university should still postpone its reopening.

“If anything, UCF should delay class for at least two more days to allow everyone to return from out of state,” Bement said.

The university made the announcement in anticipation of the hurricane, giving students, faculty and parents time to prepare and travel away from the storm, according to the Tuesday UCF alert.

“Our decision was made [with] an abundance of caution. We make these decisions using information provided by our local and federal partners,” Rachel Williams, a UCF Communications Coordinator, said in regards to criticism about the university’s timeliness.

The Category 4 hurricane is expected to make landfall early Sunday morning and make its way up to the Central Florida area later that evening, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Elmore and Bement said they will not be able to return if classes resume Tuesday.

Williams said the university will continue to monitor the hurricane and will notify UCF students, instructors and parents of any changes to the university’s schedule through emails and text alerts.

Check UCF’s website and the Central Florida Focus for more updates as the situation develops.

This article was originally published on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017.