The first day of in-person classes at Montclair State University in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been shuttered due to the remnants of Hurricane Ida.
The campus-wide Montclair State alert system announced that the campus would be closed on Sept. 2 as the university worked to clear up the aftermath of the storm.
While Hurricane Ida had been downgraded from a Category 4 hurricane to a tropical storm, the damage caused serious floods and tornadoes across New Jersey. Photos shared with The Montclarion show flooding inside Machuga Heights and outside multiple buildings on campus.
Andrew Mees, Montclair State’s media relations director, confirmed that there were water-related damages on campus.
“The heavy rains came in through the roofs of some buildings and through open windows,” Mees said.
As for the students whose dorms sustained flooding, Mees said they have been relocated.
“Nearly all issues in residence halls have been mitigated,” he said. “We will be temporarily relocating students in two rooms in Blanton Hall, but other than that, things are cleaned up and we are ready to resume normal operations [Sept. 3] thanks to the fine work of our facilities team to get the campus cleaned up.”
Mees said the cost of repairing these damages has not been calculated yet.
The campus closure means that the highly anticipated first day of in-person classes will be pushed back to Friday, Sept. 3.
For commuter students, the closure of campus was nothing short of a sigh of relief. Several major routes were shut down as crews worked to handle flooding. Dana Fields, a senior television and digital media major, shared her experience trying to get back to Montclair State during the storm.
“I was stuck in the middle of the highway [that] night,” Fields said. “I was in [an] Uber with another [Montclair State] student coming from Penn Station. All trains got canceled, and it was our last chance to get out so we took it. We were in the car for around two hours stuck in standstill traffic. People were in the middle of the highway with water up to their waist.”
Fields said at one point, she thought that she may have to walk back to Montclair State.
“Our Uber kept taking backroads and even told us that we should get out of his car and walk back to [Montclair State], which would’ve been an hour and a half walk,” Fields said. “At the last minute, we found a backroad through the neighborhood and got back to the school safely. I’m really mentally [and] physically drained after that experience.”
Jake Fiorello, a freshman jazz studies major, had to drive home during the storm.
“The storm was absolutely terrible,” Fiorello said. “I had to drive home from an 8 p.m. drum lesson. It was one of the most treacherous drives I’ve had to make in my life. Thankfully I didn’t see any flooding, at least where I was going. I live in Ringwood. My area of the town didn’t get impacted, but I’m certain other areas of my town did.”
While Fiorello is a commuter, he is extremely aware of the serious risks residential students underwent. Fiorello is a member of the Montclair State University Discord Server and was able to see eyewitness videos and photos from students. Discord is a chat app that allows users to communicate via voice and text chat.
“It was definitely a good move that [Montclair State] canceled their first day of classes,” Fiorello said. “I saw videos on the university’s Discord server showing students in dorms having to deal with leaks and flooded lobbies and basements. Commuters are also impacted by closed roads and it would take forever to get to the campus.”
Sabrina Robinson, a sophomore film and television major, said she wishes the announcement to close the university had been made sooner.
“I think they should’ve made the announcement way sooner,” Robinson said. “I understand wanting to wait and see things out, but we all knew how bad it was. There was no reason to wait until students were already getting ready for class.”