Parents anxious as hurricane flooding strands students at UNC-Pemboke

Posted October 11, 2016 3:01 p.m. EDT
Updated October 11, 2016 6:19 p.m. EDT

— Flooding from Hurricane Matthew has stranded dozens of students on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke without power.

School administrators on Monday canceled classes for this week – fall break was already scheduled for Thursday and Friday – but Chancellor Robin Cummings said in an online message that food, water and shelter would be provided to any students still on campus.

Senior Tamilya Isom said UNC-P has not had power since Saturday, so students can't charge their phones to communicate with their parents. That has left parents panicky.

"I haven't been able to sleep because I've been worried about her," said Marquita Taylor, Isom's mother.

Isom said she's already experienced a panic attack in the storm's aftermath, so she is staying with her cousin on campus so they can support each other.

"Everybody is basically scared, especially at night," she said. "Once it gets to 7 o'clock, it goes pitch black so you can't see nothing, and you're basically just praying that you won't fall in the water and drown."

Cummings said a campus security officer has been posted in each dorm since Saturday night.

Flooding has cut access to many roads, and detours often lead students back to campus, Isom said. Some students are afraid to leave because the limited number of open gas stations in the area mean they could run out of gas and get stranded on a country road, she said.

"We've tried four different ways to get to the kids, and we can't get to them," Taylor said. "They tell us it's best for us to stay back, but what are y'all doing to help them? They can't even get out to get gas. They can't get out to get nothing."

UNC-P spokeswoman Jodi Phelps said students are having difficulty getting to Interstate 95 because of flooding, but that students and faculty have been able to get to and from campus from the west on U.S. Highway 74 with few problems.

Fewer than 80 students remain on campus, Cummings said, including 15 international students, who will be taken to dorms at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. He said he hopes all students will have left campus by Wednesday.

Isom and Taylor also complained that UNC-P's promise of food for students was only a couple of sandwiches daily.

"That's ridiculous," Taylor said.

Phelps said the campus dining hall is open daily for all students, and campus police are delivering sandwiches, chips and water to students who can't get to the dining hall. Cummings said more than 2,200 hot meals have been served on campus since Saturday night.

"I'm proud of my people," Cummings said. "They've worked hard to take care of the students."

UNC-Pembroke officials also thanked North Carolina Central University for sending a truckload of food to the campus.

Phelps said the campus wasn't evacuated before the storm because forecasts didn't predict such a heavy impact on Robeson County. It hasn't been determined yet when classes will resume next week, she said.