CORRECTIONS: Updated September 13, 2018 at 2:49 p.m. with university's estimates of 4,000 students leaving campus. Updated September 14, 2018 at 1:07 p.m. to correct reference to Jon Dooley's email, which said students were "strongly encouraged" to leave campus.
As soon as Jon Dooley, vice president for student life, sent an email that "strongly encouraged" students to leave Elon University's campus Monday ahead of Hurricane Florence, the campus slowly became more and more like a ghost town.
Dooley estimates more than 4,000 students fled to escape the monstrous storm, which started as a Category 4 storm over the weekend, but was downgraded to a Category 2 storm late Wednesday night.
Dooley said he wanted his message to be serious and not have students take this as a "snow day." To him, the university could not be over prepared.
"These are the kinds of decisions you can never second guess after you’ve made them," Dooley said. "When you’re asked is to make the right decision in that moment in time, and so you know we’ll see how the storm tracks, it may track a little bit further to the south, it may shift course again.
According to Dooley, 1,400 students said in an online survey that they will remain on campus. Dooley said it would be much easier for the university to comfortably care for less students on campus who decided to stay during Hurricane Florence, especially if the university experienced a power outage. With less students at Elon, Dooley said caring for a smaller number of people would be more effective.
"We quickly realized that if we were to lose power, that we probably wouldn’t have the capacity to accommodate all of the students that would be here on campus in shelters that we have available to us," Dooley said.
Regrading food, Casey Claflin, Elon food and dining marketing manager said the university has more than enough to feed the students who opted to stay. He said there is enough food to last "until Tuesday or Wednesday of next week," when he anticipates supply lines will be open again.
"It was just about making sure that we really over prepare for the amount of students that are going to be on campus," Claflin said. "Really, what we’re aiming for is making sure there’s enough for that volume of people plus more."
Lakeside Dining Hall will be closed through Sunday, but Clohan Dining Hall will be open. Claflin said that no matter what, everyone will be fed through next week.
"If somebody is on campus and needs food, they can come to us," he said. "The meal plans are still going to be active, as long as we have power we're going to still be swiping people in. "But at the end of the day we’re going to make sure everyone on campus if they need food they’ll get food."
If the university loss power, Mosley Center would be the main shelter for students, and Clohan Dining Hall would be the main dining location. Both have back up generators.
And although Dooley is suggesting that some students leave, students like Kiara Hines, decided to stay. She is a masters of higher education student who lives in Burlington. Her advice to students.
"If you haven't left already, just stay, because the news is changing every minute and if you hadn’t decided yet just stay still."