On Wednesday, ECU Alert sent out an email notifying students that classes beginning at or after noon on Thursday and all classes on Friday are canceled, however, no evacuation has been called and officials are stressing student safety in the upcoming days.
Provost Ron Mitchelson said ECU officials had a meeting of 40 to 50 people on Wednesday at 9:30 am to get updates on the forecast. He said the forecast changed with the wind event happening earlier than expected yesterday and more rain is expected than what was previously forecast.
When officials meet to consider closure or cancellation, 40 to 50 people representing the entire main campus, Health Science Campus, health clinics, athletics and academics, discussing the pros and cons ultimately making recommendations to Interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach, Mitchelson said.
The decision to cancel classes was based on the change in forecast and Pitt County declaring a state of emergency, Mitchelson said.
The State of Emergency went into effect at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, according to a tweet from the City of Greenville, NC.
@PittCountyNC has issued a Declaration of a State of Emergency effective at 5PM on Wed., Sept. 4th.Pitt County Emergency Management has also announced five General Population Shelter locations.Details & shelter info: https://t.co/NLO39tJdSk#GreenvilleNC #HurricaneDorain pic.twitter.com/2TQmEyqMQF— City of Greenville (@GreenvilleNC) September 3, 2019
Safety is the first concern during weather events, Mitchelson said. Due to the track and timing of Dorian there was “no question” that classes would need to be canceled, he said. The cancellation will prevent people from being out in the weather such as sustained at over 40 mph and gusts exceeding 50 mph and wet conditions including five to seven inches of rainfall, he said.
“Since the forecast changed, ECU officials thought it was better if we’re gonna error, we’re gonna error on the side of caution and safety,” Mitchelson said.
A contributing factor to ECU’s decision to cancel classes was how commuter students were going to be able to reach classes, Mitchelson said. He said there are hundreds of commuter students and they may be impacted by the storm.
While classes are canceled, students and faculty are not expected to do any work for classes after noon on Thursday and into Friday, Mitchelson said. Students who take Saturday classes will still be expected to attend class, he said. If one class is missed an activity must be created to make up for lost class time, he said.
Due to the short duration of cancellation, faculty members get to decide the makeup assignment, Mitchelson said. If classes are canceled for weeks, accommodations would have to be made including possible longer class times. This situation happened to UNC Wilmington last year, he said.
“It’s always a tricky situation, last year, if you recall, we actually evacuated the campus and the hard part was deciding when to bring people back because of the difficulties people were having getting across rivers and alike in the region,” Mitchelson said.
Saturday’s football game against Gardner-Webb is still scheduled for 6 p.m. despite the hurricane, Mitchelson said. Crews will clean up campus late Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, he said. The current forecast says Saturday will be a “beautiful fall day,” according to Mitchelson.
Mitchelson recommends students bring their laptops and textbooks with them and keep them safe. He said he is covering his office computer with a plastic bag to prevent any potential water damage. Some street flooding is expected and he warns students to move their cars and not drive into flood waters.
East Carolina University Interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach provided The East Carolinian with a statement about ECU’s decision to cancel classes on Tuesday.
Prior to Wednesday’s decision to cancel classes, ECU made the decision on Tuesday to cancel Thursday after 3 p.m. and all day Friday, Gerlach said. The group of 40 to 50 people came together so a wide variety of perspectives could be involved to make the decision to cancel classes based on information known about the forecast, he said.
Gerlach said Dorian does not seem like it will have the same impacts to North Carolina as Hurricane Florence in 2018 or Hurricane Matthew in 2016. He said he cannot compare this storm to any previous hurricane because all hurricanes have a different impact.
“So, we do not anticipate that those are corollary. I believe in the alert, our recommendation is that for people in the south and east of campus, that it may be safer to stay here than to travel into the storm,” Gerlach said.
ECU’s Deputy Chief of Police Jason Sugg said the department works with the university to determine the decisions it needs to make in regards to cancelling classes or whether or not staff and students need to be on campus at certain times.
“We meet with the university, with a lot of other people to try to work through that decision making process to help the university make the best decision that they can make based on the information they have and the anticipated need, the safety needs of the campus community and whoever may be coming to or on campus,” Sugg said.
Sugg said to prep for the event ECU PD prepares extra resources to keep on hand such as staffing and equipment in the event of a hurricane. He said his best advice for students is to stay indoors and to make sure in advance that they have adequate resources such as water and non-perishable food items.
Sugg said Todd and West End Dining Halls will remain open during this weather event, however, it is not expected for people to be out and traveling to the dining facilities while the storm is passing over.
“While people are in their rooms, have something to do, keep yourself busy. Maybe work on your classwork or have some other entertainment things available,” Sugg said. “Especially with the resources, just like we (ECU PD) do, make sure you have things available especially food, water and that sort of thing.”
Sugg said if students are inclined to throw or attend “popular hurricane parties” his advice would be to make good, reasonable decisions. He said he thinks people don’t understand the bad things that can happen with an event such as hurricane Dorian with the wind and rain.
“I would suggest people make good decisions about personal safety, and that includes staying indoors while this thing’s going on, let it pass over, and then go on about your business,” Sugg said.
Sugg said, as of Wednesday morning, even though there is expected to be high winds and heavy rainfall, he is expecting to see less of an impact to the Greenville area with Hurricane Dorian than what was seen with last year’s Florence. He said, however, patterns can change and “you can never know” the impacts until the storm arrives.
Sugg said ECU PD is prepared to handle the needs of the community during tomorrow and Friday’s weather event. He said students should not hesitate to call ECU PD or 911 if they are in need of assistance or in the midst of an emergency.
ECU PD’s non-emergency number is (252) 328-6787 and the east c
ampus emergency hotline is (252) 328-0062.
“They (students) can always call us and we will get them whatever resources they feel like they need, my advice for any students living off campus, of course it just depends on what your emergency is. Just go through the normal response that you have for any other day or time of the year if you have an emergency. If you need an ambulance, call an ambulance. If you need to call the fire department, call the fire department,” Sugg said.
Sugg said ECU PD will be doing everything it can to get people the resources they need during Hurricane Dorian.