Superstorm Sandy shuts down colleges across the Northeast

“It sounded like the wind was trying to rip the windows out of the wall,” Meghan Hartman’12 said.

A freshman at Barnard College, Hartman ’12 had just finished midterms when superstorm Sandy struck the Northeast, wreaking havoc on New York City, the Jersey Shore, homes and college campuses all along the East Coast.

Sandy, the product of a collision between a Category 1 hurricane and a severe cold-weather storm, battered the Northeast Monday, Oct. 29 and Tuesday, Oct. 30 with rain, flooding, blizzards and winds that reached 90 mph, according to the National Weather Service. The superstorm first hit the New Jersey coast and swept through New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Effects were felt as far away as Michigan and the Carolinas, and by alumni across the Eastern Seaboard.

Hartman felt “very lucky to be living on the Upper West Side,” she said. “Fortunately, there was no flooding and we were very prepared and safe.”

Classes at Barnard were canceled Monday and Tuesday as the school warned students to stay inside and remain away from windows during the storm.

Below 37th Street, everything went dark around 8 p.m. Monday, when a Con Edison transformer exploded during the storm. Lower Manhattan subway stations and the Battery Tunnel quickly flooded.

Three avenues over from Susan Wang’s ’12 New York University dorm, rescue crews had to evacuate people by boat. Told to stay inside her dorm, the NYU freshman waited in the dark for the rain and wind to die down. Wang saw a “ton of damage,” debris, and fallen trees around the Greenwich Village campus.

The university canceled all classes and evacuated nearly every dorm, so Wang returned home to Los Angeles until classes resumed Monday Nov. 5.

Evan Stanley ’12, also at NYU, followed the school’s recommendation and remained inside his dorm during the peak of the storm last Monday night.His building lost all power and running water, regaining only emergency lighting in stairwells and hallways and minimum ventilation by the next evening.

Stanley had prepared for an “awful” storm, but “it turned out to be just fairly bad,” he said. “Overall, everything happened to a lesser degree than I expected.”

He stayed at a family friend’s house in the New York area until classes at NYU resumed.

Power stayed on at Columbia University, where Marissa Lepor ’12 spent Monday and Tuesday relaxing while classes were canceled. There was no flooding in any dorms or university buildings, she said.

“I was not very worried about my personal safety, so I just remained calm and spent time with my friends in the dorms,” Lepor said.

Henry Hahn’s ’14 father, Richard, who runs a beverage bottling business in New York and Connecticut, typically flies from Los Angeles to New York during the weekdays every other week to oversee business operations. Richard was on the West Coast when the hurricane was first predicted, Henry said, and all flights to the East Coast were canceled, so he was grounded in L.A. for a week.

“Communication was really spotty because people were losing power and all the email servers were down,” Henry said.

Princeton University was on Fall Break when the storm took down the public power grid in Princeton, N.J., according to freshman Hannah Schoen ’12.

The university, which was closed Sunday through Wednesday to ensure that faculty members weren’t harmed while driving or walking outdoors in the storm, sent students multiple emails about storm safety and precautions, Schoen said. The university’s backup generator activated after the power in Princeton went out, but it could only provide enough power to light student dorms.

“New Jersey got hit really hard,” Schoen said. “The storm definitely did more damage than I thought it would.”

Sandy uprooted trees and destroyed rails around the Princeton campus, she said. Only the dorms and dining halls were open to students.

“We fortunately didn’t have any classes scheduled this week, but had we, there’s no way that we would’ve had class Monday or Tuesday,” Schoen said. “Because of the limited capacity of the university’s power generator, we probably wouldn’t have been able to have class for the remainder of the week either.”

Students returned to campus over the weekend and classes began Nov. 5.

Matthew Wolfen ’12 was caught off guard when the storm reached the University of Pennsylvania.

“It was a new experience to have my first real East Coast storm,” he said.

Following the university’s instructions, Wolfen, who had purchased flashlights and non-perishable food in case the storm knocked out his power, didn’t leave his dorm Monday night as winds overturned trees on campus. Despite his precautions, the power at UPenn never went out and there was no flooding, Wolfen said.

Austin Sherman ’12, also a UPenn freshman, left campus to stay with a family friend in Philadelphia while classes were canceled Monday and Tuesday.

“When the storm actually came, it seemed as if we had dodged a bullet,” Sherman said. “In the city itself, despite strong wind and periodic heavy rain, it wasn’t bad at all.”

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