The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Students evade Katrina

Warm weather, the absence of snow, a diverse campus and Mardi Gras were all temptations that led sophomore Sydney Dun to spend a full year studying at the University of New Orleans.

Through UW-Eau Claire’s National Student Exchange program, she arrived in New Orleans in the middle of August with time to enjoy herself before classes started.

On Aug. 27, however, word spread of a hurricane brewing in the gulf, and it was predicted to hit New Orleans head-on, she said. While it seemed threatening, Dun said she wasn’t concerned.

“It wasn’t until everybody left the dorms that I started worrying about it.”Sydney Dun

“People were saying there was a hurricane coming,” she said. “People down there weren’t too worried about it.”

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And then the residence halls started to empty.

“It wasn’t until everybody left the dorms that I started worrying about it,” she said. “I figured if (my roommate’s) going to be leaving, I should probably be leaving too.”

Dun was one of two Eau Claire students studying in New Orleans while Hurricane Katrina inched closer to the coast. The other, sophomore Jules Miller, was staying in Arcadia, Fla., when the storm hit.

“(My friends and I) were all facing losing a lot and not sure if friends of ours were OK, so we tried to have some downtime,” Miller said. “It got really overwhelming.”

When news of the hurricane reached Eau Claire, Mary Ryan-Miller, associate dean of student development, immediately sent e-mails to both students to make sure they were all right.”It was an amazing coincidence,” Ryan-Miller said. “Both wrote back within a very short time to say, ‘Thanks for asking. I am safe.’ ”

Because Dun and Miller still were registered at Eau Claire through NSE, the transition back to the university wasn’t difficult. They still were paying Eau Claire tuition and were back in time to start classes, missing only a day or two, she said.

On Aug. 26, Miller heard about the hurricane from his roommate, but it wasn’t until Saturday that they, along with his roommate’s girlfriend, left New Orleans for Covington, La., to stay with her family.

On Sunday morning, the family decided to wait out the storm. But a few conversations with their neighbors persuaded them to leave.

“(One of the neighbors) said, ‘The winds are going to be blowing roofs off,’ ” Miller said. “That’s when we decided that we were going to head out.”

For Dun, her timely ride out of the hurricane’s path came by chance.

While she was in the residence hall, a water pipe burst, which caused her roommate’s parents to come to help him clean up the mess. Twenty minutes after they arrived, New Orleans officials called a mandatory evacuation. With that call, the water pipe was forgotten as Dun hitched a ride with her roommate’s parents.

“It was a freak accident that ended up being incredibly lucky for us,” she said.

After the four-hour (normally two) drive to Craylee, La., Dun said the next few days were dedicated to watching the coverage on the news. During this time, she expressed her displeasure with the situation.

“The government really screwed up,” she said. “The reaction to it was just crap.”

While many students in New Orleans fled to Louisiana State University, Miller said he felt it would be better if he came home and gave his spot up to someone who really needed it.

As of Sept. 8, LSU has received 3,029 undergraduate applications, with 2,471 of those students already scheduled for classes, said Jared Granier, the Academic Programs Abroad coordinator of LSU.

“We’ve pretty much reached the physical capacity not only with classroom availability, but also with living accommodations on campus,” he said. “The university is definitely working with all these students.”

The former pattern of 500 applications a day recently slowed down to about 200, he said.

“It’s been dying down, but it’s been quite crazy down here,” he said.

Dun’s aspirations to study at another school through NSE still haven’t changed, as she plans to either go to another school during spring semester or travel back to New Orleans if conditions improve.

Miller said he plans to stay in Eau Claire for the year and will consider studying abroad in the future. He said while he still keeps in touch with his friends in the area, he wishes he could have stayed to help. He realized, however, there wasn’t much he could do at this time.

“If I really sit down and I think a lot about it, it’s really sad. I lost all my stuff,” Miller said. “It was the promise of a really good year. There’s not a lot to do but keep going.”

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Students evade Katrina