Ophelia Throwing a Wrench
in ECU’s Plans

by Eric Gilmore

Most of my classmates are nursing hangovers right now. Sure, some may have studied Tuesday night for the impending first wave of exams, but most didn’t. Chancellor Ballard pretty much sanctioned a free “Reading Day” by canceling class Wednesday because of Hurricane Ophelia.

I understand the tragedy that is ongoing in New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina. The floods have ravished the entire city. Many people and families are displaced. Victim’s homes and entire communities are destroyed. Rumors are that it will take a trillion dollars to repair the damages that occurred.

With all of that being said, aren’t we overreacting with Ophelia? Our situation in eastern North Carolina is nothing like what happened in New Orleans. For one, we are well versed in preparing for hurricanes. Just in the past three years, this will be the third hurricane to land on the North Carolina coast.

Isabel and Charley both had minimal impacts inside North Carolina. Isabel, a Category Two storm, wreaked havoc in Virginia, a place that has not seen a direct hit since Hurricane Connie in 1955. It completely missed Raleigh, deciding only to inflict damage on the eastern portion of the state.

Charley was little more than a thunderstorm in 2004. The weak hurricane blew over loose limbs and flooded select areas downtown. The flooding was far from unusual, as flooding is common with regular thunderstorms.

With just these two hurricanes in mind, ECU would undoubtedly be having class on Wednesday. But with Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, ECU officials don’t want to take a chance. I can understand erring on the side of caution, but isn’t this a little much?

Ophelia isn’t even a hurricane, she’s a tropical storm. As of Tuesday night, she was expected to pack 60 mph maximum winds. That’s hardly the 140+ mph that the Bayou region experienced during Katrina.

This is about political correctness rather than truly believing any real threat is posed by the storm. It’s obvious with our sister school in UNC-Wilmington. UNCW officials issued a mandatory evacuation on Monday. Classes will probably be cancelled throughout the week. All of this for a borderline hurricane seems a little farfetched.

The ECU football team will be a faction of students that aren’t lounging around all day Wednesday. The Pirates were scheduled to practice on their renovated facility throughout the week. Instead, ECU will undergo a morning workout in the Student Recreation Center on Wednesday from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. pm.

ECU’s late-week plans may also be affected for the impending Wake  Forest game. Coach Holtz’s team was slated to depart late Friday afternoon for Winston-Salem. Because of possible classes being cancelled and flooded roads, it is highly possible that the travel plans may be altered.

Another aspect is the halt of the progression of the Field Turf facility. Originally schedule to be completed by mid-September, the 100-yard facility may have to wait. The hurricane could delay the debut of the field, which could impede in ECU’s preparation for West Virginia.

WVU’s Milan Puskar Stadium has Astroplay, a variation of the publicized Field Turf surface. If the facility is not ready, it would defeat the purpose of the Pirates getting used to a different surface. Southern Miss, Rice, Memphis, Tulsa and Marshall all have variations of Field Turf.

Hindsight is 20/20 and I may be eating my words come next week. But consider the confusion conjured up by canceling classes. Officials now have to deal with rescheduling issues, missed meetings and restless students cooped up in residence halls.

Whatever happened to overcoming adversity? Aren’t we paranoid as a society? What’s next? Should we cancel class the next time the terror threat is raised? All of this thinking is hurting my head. It’s time to grab some Tylenol and go back to sleep.

Eric Gilmore