As Elon University freshman Addison Fry got ready for classes the morning of Sept. 30, her family — who was originally supposed to come for Family Weekend — was still over 600 miles away at home in Orlando, Florida. Hurricane Ian grounded Fry’s family in Florida, and they were stuck waiting out the storm and attending to damage afterward.
“I felt really guilty because I knew that my family had to wade through waist-deep water to get to one of their cars and go check on my grandma,” Fry said. “I felt bad because I was just going about my day here. I was just going to my classes, and everything was totally normal.”
Almost 2,000 families were registered for Family Weekend festivities at Elon University, which took place from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1. But when Hurricane Ian made landfall Sept. 30, the university canceled and postponed numerous weekend activities on campus, and travel plans for many Elon students’ families were interrupted, especially for those from the Southeast.
Upon first hearing of the hurricane, Fry said she assumed it was just another storm that would blow over. Once she realized the severity of the hurricane in Orlando, as well as the potential impact in Elon, she said she grew nervous for the safety of her family.
According to a press release from the city of Orlando, many areas of the city experienced flooding of 14 or more inches.
“On Friday, I was definitely a little worried about everything,” Fry said. “I was just very nervous that day.”
After back and forth communication, Fry learned her family was safe. But once she no longer had to stress over her family, she said she became concerned about the state of her childhood home, as well as her neighborhood and town she grew up in.
According to Fry, the street her family lived on, the surrounding area and the two lowest rooms in their house flooded.
“Our whole street is flooded,” she said. “The water just has no place to go.”
Fry, who has lived in Florida her whole life, said her family is used to severe weather. as storms hit the area constantly. Florida leads the country in hurricane landfalls, seeing more than 50 major storms — Category 3 or higher — since 1851, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Despite missing her family, Fry said she understood the situation and did not take their absence last weekend personally.
“I knew that they were taking care of stuff back home,” Fry said. “I knew that it wasn’t just a case of, ‘Oh, they didn’t want to come.’”
Fry wasn’t the only freshman whose family was unable to visit this weekend. The Rudd family of Sarasota, Florida, also had a change of plans.
Elon freshman Dani Rudd has a twin sister at the University of Florida, and she said her parents planned to divide and conquer the simultaneous family weekends. But after evacuating from Sarasota due to the hurricane, neither daughter had a parent present for their events.
Wendy Rudd, Dani’s mother, said this was a difficult realization.
“I felt guilty for not coming because all the parents still seemed to be coming, and Elon wasn’t canceling,” Wendy said.
Following initial forecasts from the National Weather Service, Sarasota residents were advised to prepare for a direct hit from Hurricane Ian. Dani said she was concerned for her family’s safety but was comforted after hearing of their evacuation to Boca Raton in southeast Florida, where much less damage was forecasted.
Having experienced extreme bouts of weather before, she said she was unphased by the hurricane and is used to adapting at short notice.
“We’re used to this, we’re used to boarding up the windows and hoarding food and things like that, and making sure the generators are working,” Dani said.
After the hurricane changed its path slightly, making direct landfall south of Sarasota near Fort Myers, Dani said her home ended up being relatively untouched. The only damage found was a few inches of water in the backyard and fallen trees throughout the neighborhood.
“My house itself is built to withstand those kinds of hurricanes, but there’s definitely a lot of cleanup to be done,” Dani said.
Similarly to Fry, Dani said she felt out of place, watching her family experience relentless conditions while she was in a different state with different weather patterns. Elon received the brunt of the storm days after Ian made its first landfall.
“It’s obviously different being away from home because here it’s so pretty, and it’s hard to comprehend that it’s so awful down there right now,” Dani said.
Although Wendy was upset that she was unable to see her daughter, she was more relieved that Dani, as well as her twin, were alright.
“I know that they’re safe,” Wendy said. “I have faith in the school, I have faith in the hands of the people that I put my kids in.”
Both families said they are looking forward to long-awaited reunions during the upcoming Fall Break from Oct. 12 to Oct. 16. Fry said she is most excited to see her family and to check in on her home.
“I’m going home for Fall Break,” Fry said. “If they need any help while I’m down there, I’m happy to do whatever I can.”