By: Kate Rogers, Staff Writer
After a storm left roughly 200,000 Mainers without power on Wednesday night, many are still without power or internet service. According to the Press Herald, on Friday there were still 32,707 outages for CMP customers alone. All of USM’s campuses were affected and classes were canceled on Thursday and Friday. The Gorham campus had limited power, and a decision was made by the emergency response team to close the campus.
The power returned around 7 p.m, and the campus re-opened at 9 the next morning. However, this came after many students commuted hours away or walked to their homes where many did not even have had power themselves. “This whole ordeal has caused me so much stress and anxiety that I’m honestly not at all relieved that the power is back on,” said Math and Music major Devyn Adams.
One student, who requested to be anonymous for personal security reasons, booked a hotel out of pocket for Friday night. “The idea of sleeping on the floor and couches in Brooks made me and others I know really uncomfortable … some of us have past trauma that makes sleeping around others impossible,” he said. Other USM students on social media said that they booked hotels as well. “In the past, SMCC had a similar situation … they paid for hotel rooms for the students. USM has a bigger budget than SMCC by far. Was that option even considered?” The anonymous student said.
At 1:30 on Friday students were told to go home if they could in an email sent by Nancy Griffin, chief operations officer. The dorms were closed completely at 5 p.m., and all students had to have what they wanted to take with them and be out by that time. If students were unable to leave campus, they were instructed in the email to register as soon as possible to stay on campus where they would be housed in Brooks campus center. Food was offered by Sodexo to students with and without meal plans, according to Griffin.
According to Tori Leonard, a Music Education major who lives on campus, roughly 20 students stayed in Brooks for the night. “We were all frustrated that we couldn’t go back to the dorms … although it was a bad situation, the staff was amazing about it … they all tried their best to make it a more comfortable situation for all of us,” Leonard said. According to the Residential Life facebook page, an emergency shelter was offered to 80 students living on campus.
“For a lot of us, the campus is home … we pay for the security that we will have a safe home and be able to take care of our basic needs. I’m distrustful that USM can continue to be a safe and reliable home for me,” said the anonymous student.
Many students who lived close did go home, but it was a very stressful experience even if they did have power, according to Jordyn Waible, a Social and Behavioral Sciences major. Another resident, Makenzie Thompson, was 40 minutes away from campus when the email about the closing went out. After finding someone to take her 2 hours away to her home, she learned that the power was back. “I … had a breakdown, all of the stress from the school about the outage just really got to me,” Thompson said. She said that the ordeal made her feel “like we didn’t matter.”
KB Dunham, a freshman in the honors program took two of her fellow students to her house, which required taking buses and then walking a mile. There was no power there, according to Dunham. “We slept in the cold … we are all pretty upset at how this has set us back in doing our homework for the next week and at how much money and time we’ve spent,” Dunham said.
Griffin said in another email that the decision to take students out of the dorms was for the student’s safety and comfort. “We asked students who could go home to go home so they would be safe and warm … we could not get heat into the residence halls and we had concerns regarding how long the batteries on the safety systems would last,” Griffin said. They had no idea how long the power would be out, according to David Rousseo, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs. The reason students were not let back into the dorms Friday night after the power came back was so that facilities could check the emergency systems according to Christina Lowery, Director of Residential Life.
According to a comment from Residential Life on their facebook page, there are plans in place for other incidents such as weather conditions in which students are unable to go home. “We also encourage students to think about their individual emergency plans as well so they have a good understanding before an emergency happens,” they said in the comment.
Offices and services on the Portland and Lewiston campuses are all open, and events there were not canceled for the weekend. It is unclear how many students who went home have been able to easily return to the now open campus.