Hurricane Irma was predicted to be one of the most powerful storms the United States had ever faced, causing Florida governor Rick Scott to urge citizens to evacuate. Among those warned were EKU students who are currently participating in internships in the state.

Hurricane Irma devastated islands in the Caribbean as a Category 5 hurricane and made landfall in Florida around 8 a.m. Sunday, September 10. The storm completed its journey North and toward the western part of the state as a Category 3 hurricane Monday, September 11, at approximately 8 a.m.

“My back up plan was to rough it out in my apartment and hope for the best,” said Brianna Bell, 21, a senior public relations major.

Bell said she is currently participating in the Disney College Program and has lived in Florida since August 14. She will be there until January 4. She said when she first heard about Hurricane Irma she wasn’t too worried because those who worked full-time at Disney weren’t stressed. Bell said that once the hurricane came closer to Florida, however, she said she noticed a difference in people’s behavior and noticed increase concern each day. Bell said two of her roommates lived through Hurricane Katrina when it hit New Orleans, Louisiana, as a Category 3.

“I then began to educate myself on hurricanes to realize just how serious Irma was going to be,” Bell said.

Bell said that since her plan was to stay in Florida to ride-out the hurricane, she and her roommates filled their vehicles with gas and stocked up on nonperishable foods, water and Gatorade. She said that she removed important things hanging on her bedroom wall in case her window broke. However, Bell said she ended up flying to Kentucky on Saturday, September 9. She said her original flight with Allegiant was cancelled, so she booked a flight through Southwest Airlines.

“I spent the night before in a panic, worrying about if I was going to have another cancelled flight,” Bell said. “I ended up leaving my apartment to get to the airport at 9 a.m. because I knew parking was limited and I wanted my car to be in a safer place than around a bunch of trees at my apartment.”

Bell said when she arrived at the airport, the first thing she did was check into her flight. Bell added that the Southwest Airlines’ flight attendant was worried she wouldn’t be able to fly out of Florida in time so he found the last seat on a 12:15 p.m. flight. She said once she arrived in the Chicago Midway International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, the pilot informed the passengers that they were the last flight to leave Florida.

“I am honestly very thankful that I got out of there, but I am worried about what I left behind and what I am going to be coming back to,” Bell said. “I have grown to care about a lot of people in Orlando, some who have gotten out like me and others who were not as lucky.”

Bell said her return flight to Florida will not be until Saturday, September 16, forcing her long weekend to turn into a week. She said she is scheduled to work but will have to call-in and hopes her leaders are able to understand why she was unable to return on time.

“I was a little anxious, but it was good for me to experience it,” said Alexio Mosher, 24, a junior general studies in education major with an ASL minor.

Mosher is also currently participating in the Disney College Program and will be in Florida until January 4. He said he was working in Disney’s Animal Kingdom when he first heard the news of Hurricane Irma and knew about some people already leaving. Mosher said he didn’t have a way to return home and felt he would be safe staying in Florida.

“When Hurricane Irma started hitting Orlando it was pretty strong winds and it was nothing like I have seen or experienced before but I felt safe,” Mosher said.

He said he and his eight roommates plus six girls from the apartment next door were in his apartment. Mosher said their goal was to keep everyone safe. To prepare for the hurricane, he said he went to Walmart and bought lots of food and water.

“It was my first time to experience a hurricane,” Mosher said. “Shopping at Walmart in the wake of a hurricane made me feel like I was shopping at Walmart on Black Friday.”

Mosher said the boy he’s dating and friends from Kentucky and California kept in touch with him and it made him feel calm. He said he stayed awake until 4 a.m., and when he woke up later in the day to assess the damage around his apartment, he said there were many downed trees and broken windows. Mosher said he’s glad that Hurricane Irma has passed but is aware that Hurricane Jose isn’t far behind – even though it isn’t predicted to be as bad as Hurricane Irma.

“I’m so happy we are alive and safe and it wasn’t worse,” said Mosher.