Downing Branches, Irene Inflicts Mild Damage in Harvard Square

Hurricane Irene vs. Harvard Square
Meredith H. Keffer, Hojung Lee, Andrew J. Petschek, and Sara Joe Wolansky

After Harvard College battened down the hatches this past weekend, canceling Opening Days events for freshmen and sending safety tips to students in preparation for the hurricane-turned-tropical storm Irene, the campus sustained very mild damage and students hunkered indoors unperturbed.

The storm brought winds of up to 63 miles per hour and moderate to heavy rain to Boston and Cambridge over the weekend, bringing down tree branches in almost every corner of Harvard’s campus but causing little other damage.

Downed branches littered Harvard Yard and House courtyards. A tree near Lowell House was so weakened that College staff blocked the area around it with caution tape to protect passersby from falling limbs. Some Houses, including Lowell and Pforzheimer, saw small puddles form in their basements.

Elsewhere, the effects were far more severe. At least 20 people were killed, and millions from North Carolina to New Hampshire suffered power outages.

After receiving ominous College alerts and media forecasts over the past few days, many students said they found the storm to be “overrated” in their own experiences by the time it hit Harvard.

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Hurricane Irene Hits Cambridge

Hurricane Irene Hits Cambridge

“I think it was kind of a joke,” Monica L. Burgos ’12 said Sunday evening, after the rain had subsided. “I’m going for a run now in this pleasant hurricane weather.”

Several students said that though the storm proved less dire than they expected, they appreciated the precautionary measures that the College took and communicated.

Olivia J. Krusel ’15 said that Irene welcomed her and her classmates to Harvard in memorable fashion.

“Trekking across when it was windy and rainy was kind of a bonding experience,” she said.

The mood on campus, students and staff said, was cheerful despite the glum weather.

“It’s just a party,” said one House security guard, who cited Securitas policy in asking to remain unnamed. “There were five parties last night and five tonight. They’re just having a good time moving in.”

Not everyone was left unruffled by the storm, however. The Harvard Community Garden suffered harm to several of its crops, leaving Rebecca J. Cohen ’12, one of its stewards, distressed by the storm’s effects.

“It did uproot three of our tomato plants, topple our cornstalks, and knock over some of our tallest sunflowers,” Cohen said.

Though she bemoaned the ruined produce, Cohen noted that the gardeners had harvested 50 pounds of food and removed unsecured tables and chairs in advance of the storm.

The MBTA closed all public transportation due to the storm, and several popular local haunts—including Starbucks, Pinkberry, Qdoba, Otto’s, and Au Bon Pain—were shuttered.

On the whole, Irene left Harvard mostly unscathed.

“This is nice weather for Boston,” Burgos, a Florida native, quipped.

—Staff writer Hana N. Rouse can be reached at hrouse@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Julie M. Zauzmer can be reached at jzauzmer@college.harvard.edu.

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