Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria have had devastating effects, affecting families in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, but it doesn’t stop there. Kyle Pallo, 23, is one University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student who was in Florida when Irma hit.
Pallo, a senior Marketing major from Saukville, WI, has an internship at Walt Disney World in Orlando this semester and experienced Irma firsthand. While others were fleeing the area, Pallo was required to stay, as Disney was one of few places in Florida that kept its doors open during the storm.
In addition to Kyle, there are seven online UWM students living in Florida according to Laura Pedrick, special assistant to the provost at UWM. Another 20 students live in Texas, and there are currently no online students in Puerto Rico.
In total, UWM has almost 2,000 online students for fall 2017, with 336 of those being out of state. This is an increase from 2007 when the university had a total of 869 online students.
Dean of Students Rebecca Freer says that all UWM students in hurricane areas were contacted by Freer and their academic advisors to offer support and assistance. UWM also tapped into an emergency grant of $630,000 from Great Lakes Community Investments to help a student in Texas who was unable to return to work, and thus pay her bills. This grant is to be used in emergency situations for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years, says Freer.
Pallo says he never felt in danger.
“We felt safe,” Pallo says about him and his girlfriend during the storm. He says that the two of them went to a hotel with generator power for the night, and awoke the next morning to see the damage Irma had caused. Pallo documented his experience on his YouTube channel. In the video, he says that there was a 6 p.m. curfew for all residents and the fine for staying out any later was $5,000.
Cleanup crews scattered throughout the park the next day, Sept. 11, 2017, collecting debris from plants and fallen trees. The city of Orlando received over 500 reports of structural or electrical damage to homes or businesses, and 370 reports of fallen trees blocking streets.
Irma was ranked a category 4 hurricane, later lowered to a 3 by the time it reached Florida, following a similar pattern as Harvey.
Additional relief was provided to the University of Houston Basketball team in Texas from the UWM Women’s Basketball team. Coach Kelvin Sampson tweeted out asking basketball teams across the country for donations of 20 t-shirts and 10 pairs of shoes.
Pallo says he was never contacted by the university; however, he is not currently enrolled in any classes through UWM. He will return to UWM next semester after his internship is completed and will finish out his last year of school to complete his Marketing major.