For thousands of UT students, the devastation of Hurricane Harvey hits close to home.
Advertising junior Hana Mostajeran was forced to leave her home when Houston began emptying reservoirs to prevent dams from breaking, causing severe flooding. Mostajeran said she and her family packed whatever belongings they could carry and waded through deep floodwaters until they found a ride to a nearby hotel.
Mostajeran said her family returned to their home on a boat this weekend to survey the damage and found it still about five feet underwater.
“The inside of the house is done,” Mostajeran said. “I basically grew up there. There are a lot of memories, and the house has a lot of sentimental value, but we can get past it. Everyone made it out safely, so at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.”
More than 17,000 UT students, including more than one-third of UT undergraduate students, are from hurricane-affected counties, according to data provided by J.B. Bird, UT director of media relations.
Mostajeran said she missed class last week to be with her family but has now returned to campus. She said it is hard to return to her normal routine while her family is struggling back home.
“Half of my mind is there with them,” Mostajeran said. “Even though I’m trying to get back on the school grind, I’m constantly worried about them.”
Biology junior Laura Michie was already on campus when her hometown of Kingwood, Texas, flooded, resulting in damage to houses and the closure of her high school. Michie said the disaster has brought her community together, with people helping each other with things such as food, laundry and home repairs.
“My whole community has been devastated,” Michie said. “I feel powerless being stuck here while my family is ripping up people’s floors and knocking sheetrock out of their houses.”
Biochemistry junior Leo Angulo said his house in Katy, Texas, did not sustain major damage, but that the effects on his hometown are devastating nonetheless.
“(Seeing) places I’ve grown up with for 15 years … all go away in the span of a couple days is really traumatizing,” Angulo said.
Angulo said even if people aren’t able to assist directly, just being aware and understanding the hurricane’s impact would help those who are affected.
“I think it’s important that people really understand that this is not just something that you see on TV — this is very real,” Angulo said. “A lot of people are going to be affected by this long-term, more than you’d think. A big part of the UT population is from that southeast Texas area. It’s more than likely that you know someone who has been affected by this storm, whether they lost their house or not.”
The University is accommodating students’ needs by having professors excuse emergency-related absences, providing counseling through the Counseling and Mental Health Center and raising funds to provide affected students with additional financial aid.
More information can be found at https://emergency.utexas.edu/resources/harvey.