Comparing FAU’s response to Matthew and Irma

Two hurricanes have hit FAU in the last two years. We take a look at how the university responded in both situations.


A lightpost near IVA North stands bent after Hurricane Irma. Ryan Lynch | Business Manager

South Florida narrowly avoided getting hit with Hurricane Irma’s eye, sparing, for the most part, FAU and the surrounding area.

And Irma’s not too different from another storm that hit during last year’s hurricane season.

When Matthew was barreling toward the area in October 2016, there was a similar amount of panic surrounding the weaker storm making a direct hit. Matthew wound up missing the area and going to the north part of the east coast, but not before classes were canceled in anticipation of the storm.

Having two similar storms affect the area meant the school had to react quickly and decide what to do in the wake of potential danger. But did they make the right calls?

Here’s how FAU’s decision making skills stack up from Matthew to Irma.



For the 2016 storm, the school sent out a warning about closing campus on the morning of Oct. 5 over its social media platforms and through its email alert system. But the warning had an issue.

The day before, the school said through email and Twitter that it would issue the warning on the final decision at 9 a.m. Instead, students had to wait for an additional 53 minutes as the school’s promise was left unkept.

In the end, classes were canceled through Sunday, Oct. 9.

That changed during this storm. For one, the school did not promise any specific time frame for the warning and just sent it out on Tuesday with some space between the storm and the weekend.

Throughout the storm, FAU provided timely updates from its email alert system. While some students were not able to see them due to having no power, administrators canceled school from Wednesday, Sept. 6 through Sunday, Sept. 17 so that students who evacuated didn’t feel rushed to return to campus.

Better response: Irma 2017



When announced, students were told they could remain in their dorms when Mathew was going to hit and in the aftermath. When the storm shifted its path, the order to shelter remained but the danger was gone.

“We believe that students who stay in their dorms will be the safest,” associate vice president of student outreach and diversity, Andrea Guzman Oliver said in the days leading up to Matthew. “We are more concerned about students who leave and try to come back on Thursday or Friday, because of the unsafe road conditions during the storm.”

During Matthew, no on-campus building was evacuated. Any student who left was not allowed to come back until campus reopened.

Irma was handled differently due to the nature of the storm. As a category four hurricane, compared to Matthew which was a category three storm, initial plans were for students to stay on campus in their dorms and have access to the dining hall.

As Irma got closer, the school later evacuated students to Boca Raton Community High School Friday, Sept. 6, right before the weekend the storm hit. Residents were not allowed to return to campus until Wednesday of the following week.

As for on campus buildings, the Atlantic Dining Hall, Outtakes and the Rec Center all opened with limited hours Wednesday, Sept. 13.

The university cut it close with the timing of its announcement, giving less than 24 hours for those thinking of staying to prepare and/or evacuate elsewhere. But, in the face of more damage, the school does deserve props for making a call to shelter people when during Matthew they didn’t have to.

Better response: Irma



Matthew also had effects on the sporting world of FAU. Athletic director Pat Chun canceled all Friday games for men’s soccer, women’s golf, and tennis as well as softball fall exhibition games.

Women’s soccer and volleyball had their games moved to earlier dates due to the storm, and football had its practices moved to the University of South Florida in Tampa, which was not affected. Football’s game against Charlotte that week was pushed to Sunday afternoon.

For Irma, games over the weekend for women’s soccer while volleyball and football were both out of the states in North Carolina and Wisconsin respectively. Football stayed in Wisconsin until Wednesday, Sept. 13 and played its next home game against Bethune-Cookman as scheduled.

In both cases, the school did what they needed to do and made a comparable decision to other universities, like the University of Florida or University of Central Florida. In that case, there is no clear edge between the two storms.

Better response: Draw



During Matthew, school was canceled for five days. Most students only missed late Wednesday through Friday classes, meaning they had little work to make up.

Irma hit a lot worse when it came to classes, causing the school to suspend courses for 12 days. The school mandated that professors must make up for their lost credit hours “creatively.”

Reading days at the end of the semester were also canceled. Those days can now be used at the discretion of the professor for regular class meetings.

One of the few bright spots for students was the fact that they would not be penalized for missing or late schoolwork during that time, regardless of its due date.

“I would encourage students who have access to computers to keep up with their courses,” Oliver said before Irma hit. “However, if they are unable to access a computer, they should speak to their instructors.”

Looking at how both were handled, there should have been a plan in place in case of missed class time extending that far. In that case, the school did not learn from the previous storm.

Better response: Matthew



Out of the pair of hurricanes, Irma wound up causing the most chaos among students and faculty. Looking at how the school handled it, FAU wound up learning a bit from its last storm encounter.

From alerting people in a much more timely manner to handling the evacuation of students well, the school made the best of a situation it had no control over.

Although, the recovery from Irma will be much longer than Matthew’s, so the aftermath is harder to tell.

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Ryan Lynch is the business manager of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @RyanLynchwriter.