Salvatore Ambrosino | Sept. 28
On the morning of Sept. 28, Florida Southern College began sheltering students living in off-campus housing and apartments in Branscomb Auditorium.
“I’ve slept in here for four hurricanes,” said Terry Dennis, Florida Southern’s Vice President of Finance. “If that tells you how safe it is.”
Tonight will be his fifth hurricane in Branscomb. Dennis will be spending the night with an estimated 50 students as Hurricane Ian, downgraded to a category 3 storm, continues its projected path north through Central Florida.
The storm made landfall early today near Fort Myers, with severe hurricane-force winds clocked at 155 mph this morning.
Students who are living in residence halls have also been allowed to shelter in Branscromb. According to an email sent by Community Living, if residents choose to stay in their halls dinner will be provided to them in their lobbies.
In the halls of Branscomb Auditorium the walls are lined with mattresses, to be moved into the building’s practice rooms students are being bunkered in.
“It’s actually nice in here,” student Abby Witzel said. “I think I expected worse because I didn’t know what to expect. There’s plenty of space. It’s better to be down here than in a dorm.”
Witzel’s sister was at Florida Southern for 2017 when hurricane Irma struck near the college, which caused students to pack into the auditorium. Her stories of the event discouraged her from going this year.
“I knew it was going to be an option,” Witzel said. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go.”
There are board games, and a snackbar with a coffee dispenser.
“They’ve got TVs we can watch movies on,” Witzel said. “Plenty of food.”
“I was very surprised,” FSC senior Morgan Gregg said. “Of course FSC usually goes above and beyond, but this is something I haven’t seen.”
Polk County has remained mostly at the center of the hurricane’s forecasted path throughout central Florida. The storm is projected to continue north through Polk County and Orlando to Jacksonville.