Alum Michelle Wong tells her Hurricane Florence story


United States Department of Defense

The view of Hurricane Florence from the International Space Station. Image courtesy of NASA.

Crystal Sung, Editor in Chief

The first hurricane of this season, Hurricane Florence, made landfall in the Carolinas. The fallout was unprecedented. With 39 dead, floods, and damage to homes, businesses and public infrastructure totaling $16 billion to $20 billion, Florence was the hardest hit on the East Coast in over 60 years.

Four CAHS alumni currently attending college on the East Coast were asked about the impact of Florence on their communities. Only one was affected. Michelle Wong, now a junior at Duke University in North Carolina, was set to take the full brunt of Florence— that is, until it shifted.

The extent [to] which we were hit was strange. In the days leading up to the hurricane striking … we were expected to get a direct hit, with the eye of the storm pretty much going through our campus,” Wong said. Showing me a map of the predicted landing at the time, she pointed out how the center of the hurricane set to fall right on her dorm.

Long before the hurricane hit, Duke University had already made emergency preparations, canceling classes and stocking up on food. Wong and her friends were “quite comfortable and prepared.”

“But then on Thursday it did something miraculous,” Wong said. The hurricane shifted southwest and “missed our city completely.” It didn’t even rain at first.

After the hurricane, though…” Wong trails off laughing. “We were set to resume class on Monday, but they blasted an alarm at 7:37 a.m. warning everyone that there was a tornado…. Then they lifted the warning at 7:50 a.m. Still didn’t cancel class. And then a second tornado warning (along with these alarms) went off. Classes still [were] not canceled. And then it poured. And they only canceled class until noon.”

“Long story short … Duke wasn’t nearly as prepared for a tornado as it was for a hurricane, and waking up by a tornado siren is not what you ever want to experience.” Nevertheless, the impact of Florence was minimal in Wong’s area, causing heavy rain but nothing more.

As a lifelong California resident who has never experienced anything close to a hurricane, Wong was actually “kind of eager to experience it. And it was fun huddling up in our dorms and eating the Kraft mac and cheese and snacks we bought.”