While thousands of students fled campus to avoid Hurricane Florence, for some Elon students, the storm wasn’t the only disaster to escape.
“I expected to go home and relax in my bed for four or five days and just do my homework, but it ended up taking a complete twist,” said freshman Caroline Graham.
Graham grew up in Andover, Massachusetts, and returned home Tuesday. Now, she says she wishes she had braved the storm on campus instead.
There were over 60 gas explosions Thursday in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence, Massachusetts, with fires damaging and destroying dozens of homes.
Leo Brother, a fellow freshman and Andover resident, was on a train to Charlotte when he got the news disaster had struck back home.
“I wasn’t sure of how big a deal it was until I was watching national news broadcasts that were tracking the hurricane, and then they took time out of the hurricane broadcast to bring up these gas explosions,” he said. “That’s when I started to get nervous.”
Back in Andover, Graham was at the mall with her mom when she got a phone call from the police department that they needed to evacuate immediately. They quickly drove home to get their dog.
“My mom went in, I stayed far away from the house. My dog was right at our door barking, and our whole neighborhood smelled like gas,” she said. “My mom thinks she smelled it and knew something was wrong.”
Fortunately, both Graham and Brother’s homes were safe. More than 8,000 homes had their gas meters turned off and had to wait for the fire department to give the all-clear. Graham's and Brother’s families both had to spend the night at friends’ homes. When Graham and her family returned home Friday, she says they still didn’t feel entirely safe.
“A part of me was like, how do they really know it’s fine?” she said. “I just stayed downstairs and did my homework by the door so in case anything happened I had a clear exit out.”
Brother says before the explosions, he took his home for granted. Now, he says he’s grateful, and has deeper sympathy for those whose homes were damaged or destroyed in Hurricane Florence.
“Every birthday party I’ve ever had, all the friends I’ve had over there, the memories I’ve created: graduation parties, reunions, you name it and it was there,” Brother said. “Just thinking back on it now, I don’t want to lose any of that.”
The National Transportation Safety Board says it’s investigating the Columbia Gas Company which is linked to the explosions, and that this investigation may last up to two years.