Students on MTSU football team fear for safety of family, friends during Hurricane Irma

Photo and Story by Sara Wylie Helton / Contributing Writer

While much of Florida is suffering from hurricanes, several MTSU students here in Tennessee are in limbo, waiting to see what happens to their home state and those in it.

Will Mitchell, a redshirt freshman running back on the MTSU football team, is from Jacksonville and has family being affected by Hurricane Irma. Mitchell is worried about his friends and especially his grandparents, who are still in Jacksonville.

“They’re older, so I don’t really know where else they could go,” Mitchell said.

He mentioned a video he saw of the elderly stuck in nursing homes and their houses in Houston, Texas during Hurricane Harvey and the concern that brought him for his grandparents.

However, despite his concern, Mitchell doesn’t know anyone in the Jacksonville area who is evacuating.

“We just sit tight,” Mitchell said. “That’s pretty much how Floridians do it … We just prepare like it’s Armageddon. It’s a different world, (a) different mindset.”

Hurricane Irma was a Category 5 hurricane on Sept. 6 and has affected a multitude of islands in the Atlantic throughout the weekend. As it made its way onto the United States’ mainland on Sunday, Sept. 10, Irma lessened to a Category 3 hurricane and then rose again to a Category 4, but it lost energy as it made its way inland. The Weather Channel said there are 4.1 million people without power in Florida.

Irma is losing strength as she travels up the state of Florida, but it is still remains at a Category 1 near the north-east coast of the state. Early in the morning on Sept. 11, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for Jacksonville, Florida.

Mitchell is not the only football player with family being confronted by the powerful Hurricane Irma. Davis Witt, a redshirt freshman quarterback, is from Clewiston, Florida, right off of Lake Okeechobee.

Although Irma has churned her way up the state of Florida, tropical storms and flooding still threaten everyone in the state.

Witt’s dad was not given the opportunity to evacuate, because he had to work through the hurricane and is in charge of managing the level of water in Lake Okeechobee. Witt’s mom, brother and dad are staying in Clewiston to brave the storm. Witt said, despite citizens being informed to evacuate, many cities are out of gas and other resources, leaving some with no way to escape.

Witt has been able to stay focused this week on school and football, because he is no stranger to hurricanes. His family has been through a few of them. So, they knew what to expect and how to get ready for Irma. However, they’ve never been through one this severe.

“We would just board up our windows, make sure we have enough canned food, water (and) our generator was charged,” Witt said. “We’ve never really prepared for such a bad storm; I don’t know if there’s anything much you can do.”

“It’s just kind of tough when you’re up here, and I’m out of harms way,” Witt said. “Just thinking about what could go down there to my family and to my town and to the community around the lake as a whole,” Witt said. “It could be really bad— the outcome.”

Witt said the worst-case scenario would be for Irma to cause Lake Okeechobee to overflow and flood the towns surrounding the body of water.

In addition to hailing from the same home state and playing for the same football team, Mitchell and Witt share a similar Floridian mindset when dealing with hurricanes: sit and wait.

“It’s really what you do,” Witt said. “When we’ve had Category 2 or 3 hurricane(s), you just sit in the house and just wait it out.”

“Pray for us, pray for our community,” Witt said.

To contact News Editor Andrew Wigdor, email newseditor@mtsusidelines.com.

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