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Tropical Storm Harvey strands students on cruise, affects others’ homes

As Oklahoma Christian University students moved back onto campus and readjusted to typical college life, Hurricane Harvey caused many students to be preoccupied during the first week of classes.

Harvey made landfall in Texas on Aug. 25, 2017, and lasted six days in Eastern Texas, causing destruction to thousands of homes, roads and other infrastructures. According to The New York Times, Harvey originally made landfall as a Category 4 storm. By Saturday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center downgraded Harvey from a hurricane to a tropical storm.

CNN said Hurricane Harvey broke the U.S. rainfall record for a single storm, dumping almost 52 inches of rain in parts of Texas.

Two seniors, Katelyn Jennings and Katelynn Ford, started off their senior year on an unusual note, when the hurricane prevented them from disembarking their Carnival cruise ship in Galveston. Originally planning to disembark Aug. 26, Jennings and Ford said they ended up having to stay on the cruise an extra four days due to the Galveston port being closed.

According to Ford, the crew informed the passengers about Harvey making landfall and closing Galveston port on what was supposed to be their last day on the ship. The crew circled the Mexican Gulf until they began to run out of fuel, water, food, and other resources.

“We were informed that the Galveston bridge was flooded and people would be unable to leave the island, and the port was still closed,” Ford said. “On Monday Aug. 28, we were informed that the port in Galveston would not be open until sometime later in the week. They decided to go back to New Orleans so people who wanted to find other arrangements home would be able to do so.”

Carnival never put the passengers in a location with any potential danger, Ford said, and the crew created a new itinerary each day so everyone would have something to do.

“The cruise line was incredible,” Ford said. “During our extra time at sea, they never made us feel as though we were stuck or a burden to them. They opened up their phone lines and Wi-Fi so that everyone would have a way to contact people at home. They still prepared high quality meals for everyone on board each day. Over all, they went above and beyond to do their part to ensure that those on the boat affected by the storm had a warm bed to sleep in, nice meals, and a shower, so they could have less to worry about.”

According to Ford, the Carnival crew made it easy to stay calm during her extra time on the ship.

“Carnival made me feel safe and I was confident they would not put us in an unsafe situation,” Ford said. “We were surrounded by hundreds of people whose homes and families were affected by the storm. My heart was breaking for the people around me who were not going back to a home or dry place to sleep. Although I was worried about missing school, I felt as if the people around us were dealing with far bigger issues.”

Ford and Jennings found a flight Tuesday, Aug. 29 from New Orleans, LA to Dallas, TX. According to Jennings, around 700 other people also left the ship Tuesday night. Upon returning home, Jennings said she discovered Harvey caused her more issues than missing her first few days of classes.

“My dad, who lives in Fort Worth, helped me get a car because mine at the carport in Galveston got washed away along with a lot of other peoples,” Jennings said.

According to Ford, they arrived back in Edmond at 2:00 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 30 and attended classes later that day.

The hurricane also affected Oklahoma Christian students from Texas, many of whom already made it back to campus. Junior Michael Foster is from Katy, TX, where heavy rainfall from Harvey caused flooding and other damage.

“My family is safe,” Foster said. “They decided to stay at the house and do everything they could to stop the water from coming in by placing bags of mulch and sand around the doors, but water ended up coming in from the walls. My house took in nine inches of water, and my garage was filled with two feet of water.”

Foster said it is difficult being separated from his family during this time.

“It is very stressful knowing what my family is going through, and knowing that I cannot do anything to help,” Foster said. “I would much rather be in Katy with them going through it together than being safe here without them.”

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