Tulane students head to Houston after Ida spurs school’s evacuation
More than 1,800 students from Tulane University in New Orleans were evacuated to Houston on Tuesday following Hurricane Ida, and more are coming to downtown hotels.
A Tulane spokesman said the university made the decision to evacuate Monday night and is paying for hotels, food and flights to get students out of New Orleans. The first groups of oncampus students were loaded onto 35 buses headed to Houston at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Tulane plans to evacuate more students Wednesday morning, including those who live off campus. Tulane students who will be in Houston for a short period ahead of their flights home will stay at the Marriott Marquis downtown. Those with longer stays will be housed at the downtown Hyatt Regency, the university said.
Tulane President Michael A. Fitts and vice presidents Robin Forman and Patrick Norton said in an email to the university community that Orleans Parish — which includes the city of New Orleans — was without power and that critical infrastructure, such as sewage and water, could be affected for several weeks.
“Like all in the region, Tulane experienced a range of damage that requires repair,” they wrote.
As a result, the university has canceled classes for the next two weeks. Classes will resume online Sept. 13 through Oct. 6, allowing the university and the city to repair itself and reinstate power. Classes will resume inperson Oct. 11.
Students who could get immediate flights home are doing so. The first bus from Tulane transported a group of students directly to a Houston airport. International students or those who cannot return home within the next two weeks could be staying in Houston close to a month, a Tulane spokesman said.
Alba Zhao, a Tulane economics doctorate student originally from Beijing, said she was at first in shock and nervous when she first heard that she would have to be evacuated. It was her first hurricane, and the winds were very strong, she said.
But the bus ride up wasn’t too bad, she said. And now she’s looking at her possible month-long stay in Houston as an adventure and a chance to get to know a new city.
“The challenges we’ve experienced during the past two academic years have well-prepared us for remote learning and work. We are confident that we will be able to effectively continue teaching, learning and working remotely while our emergency personnel work to address damages on campus, and across the city and region,” Fitts and the vice presidents wrote.
The university is creating a hub in Houston to provide food and lodging for students. The university will absorb all of the costs for hotel stays and flights, and additional emergency funds are available for students who need more support.
Louisiana State University’s football team had already evacuated to Houston. The LSU Tigers were to practice for three days at the Houston Texans’ NRG facilities, according to The Advocate, then leave for the Sept. 4 season opening game at UCLA.
Xavier University, a historically black college in New Orleans, either evacuated students to the Dallas area or asked students to shelter in place, according to reports.
The University of St. Thomas in Houston has been working to find ways to assist Tulane in its transition to safety in Houston. St. Thomas Chief of Police H. E. Jenkins said the university was on a conference call with other organizations on the emergency management team throughout Texas.
“We want to help as much as possible,” Jenkins said.
This isn’t the first time students have been relocated due to weather. Ahead of Tropical Storm Barry in 2019, Rice University took in more than 100 students who were attending a camp at LSU in Baton Rouge.
Leo Zhu, a senior at Tulane, said evacuating from New Orleans was sad because he and many students haven’t been on campus long this semester, particularly following a year online due to COVID.
“It’s too much for our studies,” the finance major said.
But Zhu said the evacuation process has been positive. He’s been able to tell his parents, who live in China, that he’s safe. Still, he said, he’s hoping New Orleans recovers as soon as possible.