Campus News

Hurricane Irene hit close to home for Bethel students and alumni

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As Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc from the Caribbean to New England on Aug. 27, she claimed at least 43 lives, left eight million without power, flooded hometowns and affected several Bethel ties on the East Coast. The storm was only labeled a category-one hurricane, but its three-day rampage left billions of dollars of destruction in her wake.
Hurricane Irene destroyed a lot of things in it's path including many roads. (
Hurricane Irene’s first U.S. sighting was on the North Carolina coastline on Aug. 27. High wind speeds and major flooding left devastation behind as the category-one storm climbed north into Virginia later that day. By the following morning, the District of Columbia and New Jersey coast were also pelted with strong rains, wind gusts and major flooding. In preparation, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city and shut down the mass transit system. The actual damage to NYC was limited, however, in comparison with other locations, like Vermont where flash floods caused evacuations and additional destruction. By Aug. 29, New England conditions were sunny and clear, although spirits remained overcast and dismal as residents dealt with Irene’s massive damage. Without penetrating Mishawaka, Hurricane Irene still touched Bethel’s campus by affecting several alumni and student relations. From North Carolina to New York City, several family members and friends witnessed the ruin. Bethel students Josh and Ashley Winningham, along with Resident Director Laura Winningham, were also connected to Irene’s destruction. Their extended family members, Jessie Atwell and Jenny Lynne Stroup, live in the DC area and were fortunate enough to evade much of the storm’s severe weather. “The major effects here really were no stronger than a thunderstorm, some rain and 40mph winds,” Atwell said. “We definitely were spared.” New York, the home of several Bethel College connections, experienced more anticipation than actual damage. Christine Eckes, a relative of former Bethel student Candace Broadie, was pleasantly surprised at the lack of damage in Fishkill, New York. Aside from torrential downpours and high winds, the area experienced no destruction from Irene. Likewise, sophomore Brennen Barnett’s family members in Long Island reported only a power-outage after the hurricane. Kelli McDaniel, a 2003 Bethel graduate and New York City resident, experienced only slight harm with a few fallen trees and minor flooding. The financial hit of evacuating the city and closing the subways was much greater, however. “New York is a prideful place and people saw it as a huge mistake and taking too much precaution rather than God answering prayers and calming the storm,” she said. “But some of us are very thankful that God was so gracious.”
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