Nicholls State evacuates dozens of students to LaTech
Some of the evacuees have no homes to go home to while others have homes with no roofs
RUSTON, La. (KSLA) - Ahead of Hurricane Ida, Nicholls State University told students they had to evacuate. Many are from the surrounding area.
But there were several students, many international, who had nowhere to go. Louisiana Tech stepped in and is currently housing 50 evacuees.
“At the beginning before we came, we didn’t know what it was going to be like as we have never evacuated before,” Marcos DeVoto said. “But when we got here we were well received. We were told we could use the facilities as if we were students at LaTech, which has been really nice. It’s actually way better than what we expected; but, of course, we would like to go back as soon as possible.”
Saisiddharth Nandhakumar said they received an email that they were going to be evacuated.
“We got the word Friday morning around 10:50. We knew there was a hurricane coming, but we didn’t know what we were going to do.
“This is my first time staying in the dorms,” Nandhakumar continued. “We weren’t expecting to evacuate, but they said they were going to monitor the storms. Half an hour later, we get an email saying everyone has to evacuate.”
Nandhakumar said everyone had to get rapid COVID-19 tests done before hopping on the buses to Ruston.
Many of them watched the coverage of Hurricane Ida as the storm made landfall and made its way through southeast Louisiana. Even today, many were searching for images and videos to see how Thibodaux fared.
“We saw roofs falling apart, trees in the roads, power lines going down like dominos,” Nandhakumar said. “We were pretty freaked about it.”
For now, Nicholls State’s campus is closed and classes are canceled indefinitely.
“From the reports I’m getting from campus, things are pretty rough.” Jerad David, the university’s communications director. “There’s no electricity, trees are down, power lines are down. It’s not safe right now, so that’s why they have held back yet.”
The Nicholls State University Foundation has established the Nicholls Campus Emergency & Hurricane Relief Fund to assist students and, in some instances, faculty and staff in times of unique needs. More than half of the student body lives in Lafourche or Terrebonne, many in low-lying areas in the southern parts of the parishes. Many will need recovery assistance in the aftermath of the storm.
“That is going to be used to help students, faculty and staff who have been displaced or lost a lot,” David explained. “Some students have homes with no roofs, some have no homes. I ran into two students here in Panama City Beach who live in one of our really low-lying areas, and they don’t know if they have homes to go back to.”
LaTech and Nicholls State both are a part of the University of Louisiana System.
“Every school in the UL system agrees to provide mutual aid to one another,” LaTech spokeswoman Tonya Oaks Smith said. “Nicholls is our partner; and we started talking to them about a week ago about the possibility of moving some of their students who could not evacuate.”
Oaks Smith said the schools’ student affairs offices worked together to get the students to Ruston safely ahead of Hurricane Ida. And although all the students are Nicholls Colonels, for right now, they are all members of the Louisiana Tech family, she added.
“Providing support and aid is just a part of the culture that we have in the UL System,” Oaks Smith said. “We want to take care of these students like they are our own children. And we want to make sure they are safe and as comfortable as they can be right now when they are not at home.
“A number of our staff have said it’s an honor to serve,” she continued. “When we had the tornado in 2019, we had so much support from our sister institutions in the UL System that it feels good and an honor to serve the students that need us right now.”
All the students who took the trip north from Nicholls State say they are grateful to the Louisiana Tech community.
“At first, it was kind of stressful because we didn’t know what to expect,” Ricardo DeVoto said. “We were told the hurricane was going to be bad, but we didn’t have this experience before. We are really thankful to Louisiana Tech for hosting us here. We have everything we need.”
“They are doing an amazing job taking care of us,” Nandhakumar added. “We never expected so much hospitality. Thank you LaTech.”
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