President Rosenberg delivers message on recovery following Hurricane Irma


President Mark B. Rosenberg sent the following message to the university community regarding recovery following Hurricane Irma on Sept. 10, 2017:

Dear FIU family,

Even though this has been an exhausting couple of days, and even though the storm we have endured is one of the worst that Florida has experienced, you all must understand that we have survived one of Florida’s most devastating storms with limited damages. Compared to nearby communities and neighborhoods throughout the state, we are relieved and in many ways enabled to help as much as possible.

No doubt, significant advance preparation, and a spirit of cooperation, collaboration and patience have enabled an incredible team effort by members of our community.  I want to thank you for all this.  Even more important, I want to thank you in advance for your patience and willingness to adapt in what may be a situation of extreme difficulty for friends, loved ones and neighbors.

Parts of campus are flooded following Hurricane Irma. Damages across the university are currently being assessed. FIU remains closed until further notice.

In these first moments following the storm as we focus on recovery, please remember that unnecessary accidents and personal harm occur in the effort to secure your property.  We want you and your families intact and moving forward once we resume operations.

It is likely that many members of the university community, friends, family and neighbors were severely impacted by this storm. If you are able to help, please look for opportunities to make a difference in our community.

Now that the worst of Hurricane Irma has moved past South Florida, FIU has started to assess the damage. Here is the current situation at MMC:

  • Almost 5,000 cars owned by students, neighbors, and friends are parked in MMC garages for safekeeping. The cars appear to be intact and the garages are accessible for vehicle removal as soon as curfew and road conditions allow. Please beware of standing water, and other road hazards.
  • The university remains closed and classes–including online classes–are still canceled until further notice. Students, faculty and staff will receive ample notice to make their way back to campus. Take this time to recover, address any damages to dwellings and premises, and help your loved ones and friends to get back on track.

Damage to campus includes felled trees, such as these by the Wertheim Conservatory.

Preliminary assessment

There is significant damage to MMC landscaping, including some toppled trees.  (We will do our best to replant trees, some of which I know are cherished by many of us.)  A preliminary assessment indicates minor flooding, downed light posts and signs. There are reports of leaks and water intrusion in several buildings.

Because the Biscayne Bay Campus is in an evacuation zone, we are just now reviewing the situation there. At this point, we have not identified significant damage.  Likewise, assessments will need to be conducted at FIU Downtown on Brickell, The Wolfsonian-FIU, The Jewish Museum of Florida, FIU@I-75, Aquarius and the Engineering Center.

Recovery process

A group of FIU administrators and staff stayed on campus during the storm. They deserve our thanks and appreciation for their willingness to be on site and available.  They have started the recovery process that will encompass three major areas:

Facilities

Every building on every campus, center and museum will need to be inspected and urgent or safety issues addressed before the campus can reopen. Returning students who sheltered at Parkview to their on-campus suites is a top priority, as is opening the Green Library, where our students can get back to their studies. Assuming no hidden damages, we expect to open our libraries as soon as possible and certainly before classes resume.

Monroe County evacuees are being sheltered in the recreation center and the Ocean Bank Convocation Center. Because it is unclear the extent of damage the Florida Keys have sustained, it is impossible to say when those buildings will be returned to normal operations. Please understand that we and now others see our campus as a sanctuary.  Please give our visitors your respect and support.

President Mark B. Rosenberg stands with Chief Information Officer Robert Grillo, center, and a dedicated team of IT staffers who spent the storm managing the data center to ensure our sites stay operational and information remains accessible to the public.

Power and technology

The technology infrastructure fared very well, thanks to excellent planning and active management through the storm. Systems that were brought down for the storm are being restored. However, several campus buildings do not have power at this time.

Students, faculty and staff

Many members of the university community wisely left town ahead of Hurricane Irma’s arrival. Others, unfortunately may have to deal with significant personal challenges and loss. Please know that it will take some time to bring the campus back to normal operations.

All employees should make every effort to contact their supervisor and let them know they are ok. Essential staff should report to work as soon as conditions allow it.

Non-essential staff will be called back to work a day or two before classes resume.

Please look for updates as more information becomes available. Updates will be sent through:

I have often said that we are blessed with a meaningful and purposeful life.  This storm gives us an opportunity to pause, take stock and rededicate ourselves to the cause of hope and opportunity that our university provides.

Sincerely,

Mark B. Rosenberg

President


President Mark B. Rosenberg sent the following message to the university community regarding Hurricane Irma on Sept. 8, 2017:

Dear FIU family,

The next 72 hours likely will be very challenging. Hurricane Irma has shown it has no mercy: the wind will be loud and nerve-wracking, the pounding wind-driven rain will seem unending, and storm-related noise will be annoying, to say the least.

Our collective experience with Hurricane Andrew, and more recent serious storms – as well as our preparation – will serve us well. But the key element is our resilient FIU family and the community of family and supporters from around the nation and indeed the world who have expressed their concern and care for our FIU. Experience tells us that in a situation such as this, individuals can make a big difference. I challenge you to try to make a difference—particularly in supporting family and community. And because we care about you, I want to share with you what is likely to happen.

You will go through a lot during the next few days. I am sure that most of us are already exhausted by the draining efforts to prepare and support others. Safety must be first. If you are bunkered at home, understand that you will likely lose electricity, and may need to retreat to a windowless room if all else fails. During the last major hurricane, many benefitted from battery operated TVs and radios which provided life-saving information. Understand that while you may be afraid, your family members will be equally fearful and that you have an unprecedented opportunity to give comfort to loved ones and to rise above the difficult moments. Because everything indicates that this will be a long storm, don’t be fooled by moments of calm—we may either be momentarily in the eye of the storm or we may be in between rain and wind bands. This storm is expected to last all day Sunday and possibly into Monday. Stay inside throughout.

Because you will likely lose power, you should conserve whatever the battery power you have in flashlights and cell phones. Prior to the storm’s arrival you should fill bathtubs and containers with water. If you have running water after the storm, it’s a good idea to boil it before drinking it.

After Irma has passed, there will be a period of eerie silence before the helicopters, generators, and grinding chain saw sounds fill the void. Because air conditioners will not function, you will feel the blistering heat of our South Florida tropics. Cell coverage and phone connectivity will be limited. Local television and radio will be your best source of information. Standing water is dangerous and so are downed power wires. Stay away from both. Local travel will be difficult: street signage will likely have been blown away, stop lights at intersections may not work, and basic supplies such as generators, plastics and tarps will likely be in short supply.

If your dwelling has sustained significant damage, you will need to make sure that the house number is visible — even if you must spray paint it somewhere on the property. Beware of unlicensed door knockers selling repair services. There were many families ripped off by these con artists.

If you have a generator, please be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning; electric shock and electrocution; and fire. Use it outdoors, away from open windows, vents and doors. Do not run it in an enclosed space like your home or a garage. Make sure to turn the generator off and let it cool down before refueling.

Expect that our ability to communicate with you, initially, will be limited by the lack of wireless connectivity. We have back up plans to keep current our website, but if you cannot get access to it, that will not help you.

At this point, we are closed through Monday evening. But we expect to be closed for more days after that. Our first objective will be to ensure that the FIU family is intact. We urge you to help friends and colleagues in recovery. Then we will immediately turn to safety and facility issues. All buildings and systems will be carefully checked to ensure good working order.

Then and only then will we determine a timetable to first reopen the university, and then resume classroom instruction. It is highly unlikely that we can both reopen the university and then resume class simultaneously. We understand that our students, faculty and staff need time to begin the process of recovery. Once the university resumes operations, our Counseling and Psychological Services team will be available to support our students.

Please stay alert to announcements about university operations. Information about campuses reopening will be communicated through the local media and FIU’s official channels:

  • Messages to your FIU email account.
  • FIU social media accounts (Facebook and @FIU)
  • The university news site: news.fiu.edu
  • Call 305-348-HELP (4357) for recorded updates

Please be safe and keep those around you safe as well. I look forward to seeing you back on campus soon.

Remember this: staying calm can be the Panther Superpower.

Best,

Mark B. Rosenberg

President


Read more: Campus closed until at least Monday