Early last Monday morning citizens in central Florida awoke to a scene of destruction. Overnight, a series of nine tornadoes touched down leaving 38 dead, interrupting phone and power utilities and wreaking havoc on a 50-mile swath of farmland and rural townships.
Total damage: about $56 million, according to Federal disaster relief representatives.
Three hundred miles to the north and far away from the destruction, the most inclement weather Cambridge residents have faced in recent weeks has been the occasional blustery noreaster. But even here, where the winter has been comparatively mild, there are those in the Harvard community who were not immune to the effects of Florida's latest natural disaster.
For the 296 students at the College from Florida, particularly those who live in the central part of the state, Monday morning brought anxiety, consternation and concern.
"When I read the report on the Internet, immediately I was worried," said Angela D. Wiggins `00. Wiggins hails from Samford, Fl., close to the center of the affected zone.
"I thought the worst could have happened," said Wiggins. "I called my mother and when I heard her say, `hello', relief swept over me."
In Wiggins' case, as with the majority of her fellow central Floridians at Harvard, such uncertainty was brief: the news from home was primarily of disaster averted.
According to Rochelle M. Jean-Jacques `01, a resident of Lake Mary, Fl., "everything within a 10-mile radius of our house was hit, but thankfully we were fine."
For others, however, uncertainty persists. J. David Hampton `00, whose hometown of Kissimmee was buffeted by a twister, has been unable to reach his family by phone since before Monday.
Despite these few dramatic cases, however, the overriding reality seems to be that Harvard students from Central Florida were spared the main thrust of the damage. Jo-Ann L. Peart `01 of Seminole County professed that she did not even know a tornado had hit her area.
Alan M. Gerlach Jr. `71, president of the Harvard Club of Central Florida based in Kissimmee, said in an interview yesterday that the 110 Harvard alumni he knew in the region had emerged from the storm unscathed.
Gerlach explained that the alumni's deliverance from devastation was due to geography.
"The areas that were most seriously hit were coincidentally the ones with the fewest alumni," Gerlach said.
As the volatile Floridian winter continues, it appears that the natural disaster's touch on the Harvard community has been mercifully light.
Whether this indicates Harvard's good fortune or is further evidence of an arrangement between the University and higher powers is a matter requiring further investigation.
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