This Is How 700 College students In The Caribbean Ended Up Finding out In The North Of England

Mahapatra wondered if it was her way of dealing with danger to distance herself mentally from danger. “I like to downplay a lot of things,” she said. “I think I just didn’t understand the reality.”

Rahul Patel, who grew up in Illinois and studied in San Diego before arriving at AUC two semesters ago, had also felt detached from the possibility of danger. “When I originally started at AUC, people said, ‘Watch out for the hurricanes!’ But you never really got through it,” he said.

Despite his parents’ assurances, Patel “didn’t think twice” about returning to school, especially since the hurricane was originally forecast to be far less severe than it ultimately was. “I just thought if it comes we’ll all go or it won’t be too bad,” he said, later noting that the students at AUC are in a much more privileged position than those who live permanently on the island. “You never think it’s going to be this bad until you see what it can do.”

When warnings surfaced the Sunday before the hurricane that it was likely a Category 5, Patel and friends were among the many who tried to leave the island. “We all went straight to the airport and searched for flights online – we didn’t think we’d survive the hurricane,” he said. “It was too late. Everything was booked, then everything was canceled, and anyway, if you wanted to fly to New York it was several thousand dollars. You can’t just pay that.”

When Patel rushed back to the AUC shelter, he began to understand the gravity of the situation. “It was creepy. At that point they said it would be the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic they had ever seen and we are in a building that should be safe for Category 5, but they also said it was the strongest ever experience was category 4, so they kind of tested it. “

Mahapatra described the shelter, where hundreds of students, AUC staff, and some local residents took cover, as a “huge mess of people and pets” when she arrived. Many brought their families and friends with them, and AUC also sheltered some local residents who arrived as the storm approached and intensified. But it was only when Irma dismounted on the island in the early hours of Wednesday morning and buzzed at the windows almost two days after the first drive-in did she finally overcome her fear.