Dear members of the Beacon community and families:
My previous messages this week have explained the preparations underway for Hurricane Irma’s Central Florida impact. As of this Saturday morning, all measures are now in place to protect our students and the campus in the expectation of the most severe weather projected (i.e., Category 3 winds, 10-12 inches of rain, and sustained power outages). We are all hoping for much better circumstances than this worst-case scenario, but stand ready as a community to confront such a situation.
My interest now, as the storm prepares to make landfall to our south, is to detail our actions during and in the wake of the hurricane:
- All data from the National Weather Service, the National Hurricane Center, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency indicate that winds of 45 mph are not expected to affect Leesburg until mid-afternoon on Sunday, September 10.
- As we wish for our students to enjoy one more night of rest in their beds, a mandatory shelter-in-place in the College’s Student Center directive will be effective at noon Sunday. The Student Center will open at 9 a.m. Sunday, so that students may bring those items essential for sleeping and comfort.
- We are encouraging students to go to the Chopping Block between 9 a.m. and noon to enjoy a hot meal, as, if power outages do occur, our service, while ample, will likely be limited to cold offerings (e.g., cereals, snacks, sandwiches, and luncheon rolls).
- Once the students and our staff (including, a nurse and counselors) are “sheltered in place,” the group will remain in the Center until College officials deem that weather conditions permit students to return to their residences (and, for those off-campus students who are joining us, to their respective homes and apartments).
- Our director of campus safety, Ryan Nesbitt, and his officers, in conjunction with the housing and resident life staff, will conduct a complete tour of all campus residences to ensure that all students comply with the mandatory Student Center “shelter-in-place” order. They will ensure that each room has been secured, with doors and windows locked, as well as electrical devices unplugged and water turned off.
- Students will have their cell phones, so staffers will encourage them to update parents that they have sheltered in place and are safe. Since there will be limited availability for students to recharge their phones — and a power outage would thwart recharging — we ask our students and family members observe brief conversations to conserve battery life. We encourage our students to arrive with their phones and other electronic devices fully charged.
- We learned much from Hurricane Matthew last October, including those activities and supports that help time pass more comfortably. Dean of students Dr. Kerry Greenstein and his student affairs staff are well prepared.
- As power permits, you will be receiving brief regular updates from our director of communications, Mr. Darryl Owens, via our website. Assuming that we experience a sustained power outage on campus, we will endeavor to use alternative methods of communication, including direct text messaging and emails.
- The storm is expected to continue with sustained winds through mid-afternoon on Monday. Once the winds calm to 20-25 mph, Mr. Sam Morgano and our facilities team will inspect the campus for any issues that might jeopardize the safe return of our students to residences and, ultimately, to the Chopping Block for dining services.
- Once Provost Shelly Chandler and Dr. Greenstein determine that the campus is safe for students to return to their residences, we will transport students to their housing via the College’s shuttle buses. If weather conditions follow the current projections, we expect this will occur no earlier than Monday evening or Tuesday morning.
- With students safely in their residences, our attention will turn to providing hot meals as quickly as possible. We have secured gas grills should power not be restored by Monday evening.
At present, students on campus are pursuing their daily routines (with additional shuttle service to Wal-Mart for some last-minute shopping). All of the students with whom I have interacted today (20 to 30) are upbeat, although understandably anxious about the impending storm.
For our students departing for Italy from JFK this evening, we wish you Godspeed. For those who are away from campus for the next several days, we await your safe return to us. Know that, for those of us on the Beacon campus, students and staff, the days ahead will be guided by the dictates of safety. Assuredly, we shall all celebrate Hurricane Irma’s ultimate departure.
President, Beacon College