Irma reaches West Ottawa


Sonja Collins

From nearly 1,500 miles away, the effects of Hurricane Irma manage to reach students at West Ottawa. They’re not just suffering due to the unusual fall heat or the extra $0.15 for gas; Irma has put weight on the hearts of students from WO. Many students with loved ones in Florida have felt stressed over the outcome of the storm, and with three out of four Floridians lacking power, they should be. Now, with another hurricane following less than a week later there has been even more students with stories to tell.


  Jr. Jayda Hoang moved to Ocoee, Florida for all of the 7th grade to live with her grandparents and go to middle school. She made many close friends that she is still connected with. When Hurricane Irma hit, Hoang became very worried about the wellbeing of her Florida friends. She says her friends, Jada Robinson and Keziah Kennard, stayed safe at their houses. “My cousins left… and decided to go to North Carolina,” Robinson said. She added that “Everyone in our neighborhood was safe… some trees falling and branches but never onto a house”.   


  However, the stress still managed to affect their school and their family; the power at Robinson’s work didn’t get turned back on until Sept. 15. The girls also didn’t have school for 10 days surrounding the storm. “The power in a lot of companies and homes have just come back on,” Kennard said. She also stated that she has many friends in the area who still don’t have power.


  Even closer to home, Soph. Sam Ockerlund had planned to move down to the Florida Keys for the first semester of her sophomore year. They left Holland before Irma had reached the United States and had only just arrived down at their new house when her family heard about the approaching hurricane. Ockerlund said, “At first we didn’t know if we were even going to go anywhere at all. But then, it looked like the storm was coming straight to where we were. So, we decided to fly back to Michigan.” Her family managed to evade Irma. Back at WO now, Ockerlund knows that luckily, her neighborhood in Florida managed to stay safe, but the house was in the middle of Irma when the storm passed through the area. The family is lucky they managed to get plane tickets before flights began to be canceled. Ockerlund says she does still plan to move down to Florida. She plans to leave again on Sept. 16 and stay there for the rest of the semester, but the hurricane has shortened her time to spend in the area.


  As for those looking to help the victims of the storm, there are many stores in Holland that are offering ways to donate money . For example, Lowes has committed to raising $1 million in cash and product donations and donating $1 million of their own money. Other places in town where students or community members could donate are at Culvers or Panda Express. Panda Express had pledged to donate 20% of all money up to $3 million.


  These donations could go to helping students with connections to WO clean up at their schools or in their neighborhoods. They could help the power get turned back on at Robinson and Kennard’s school or help with the downed trees in Ockerlund’s new neighborhood. Although Florida is nearly 1,500 miles away from WO, there are still many ways to help those affected by the hurricane. Donating and caring for loved ones in the area can be a great help.